Uncovering sex differences of rodent microglia

J Neuroinflammation. 2021 Mar 17;18(1):74. doi: 10.1186/s12974-021-02124-z.


There are inherent structural and functional differences in the central nervous systems (CNS) of females and males. It has been gradually established that these sex-specific differences are due to a spectrum of genetic, epigenetic, and hormonal factors which actively contribute to the differential incidences, disease courses, and even outcomes of CNS diseases between sexes. Microglia, as principle resident macrophages in the CNS, play a crucial role in both CNS physiology and pathology. However, sex differences of microglia have been relatively unexplored until recently. Emerging data has convincingly demonstrated the existence of sex-dependent structural and functional differences of rodent microglia, consequently changing our current understanding of these versatile cells. In this review, we attempt to comprehensively outline the current advances revealing microglial sex differences in rodent and their potential implications for specific CNS diseases with a stark sex difference. A detailed understanding of molecular processes underlying microglial sex differences is of major importance in design of translational sex- and microglia-specific therapeutic approaches.

Keywords: Disease; Epigenetics; Microglia; Sex differences.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Female
  • Male
  • Microglia / physiology*
  • Microglia / ultrastructure*
  • Rodentia / anatomy & histology*
  • Sex Characteristics