Microglia regulate central nervous system myelin growth and integrity

Nature. 2023 Jan;613(7942):120-129. doi: 10.1038/s41586-022-05534-y. Epub 2022 Dec 14.


Myelin is required for the function of neuronal axons in the central nervous system, but the mechanisms that support myelin health are unclear. Although macrophages in the central nervous system have been implicated in myelin health1, it is unknown which macrophage populations are involved and which aspects they influence. Here we show that resident microglia are crucial for the maintenance of myelin health in adulthood in both mice and humans. We demonstrate that microglia are dispensable for developmental myelin ensheathment. However, they are required for subsequent regulation of myelin growth and associated cognitive function, and for preservation of myelin integrity by preventing its degeneration. We show that loss of myelin health due to the absence of microglia is associated with the appearance of a myelinating oligodendrocyte state with altered lipid metabolism. Moreover, this mechanism is regulated through disruption of the TGFβ1-TGFβR1 axis. Our findings highlight microglia as promising therapeutic targets for conditions in which myelin growth and integrity are dysregulated, such as in ageing and neurodegenerative disease2,3.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aging / metabolism
  • Aging / pathology
  • Animals
  • Axons / metabolism
  • Central Nervous System* / cytology
  • Central Nervous System* / metabolism
  • Central Nervous System* / pathology
  • Cognition
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Mice
  • Microglia* / cytology
  • Microglia* / metabolism
  • Microglia* / pathology
  • Myelin Sheath* / metabolism
  • Myelin Sheath* / pathology
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / pathology
  • Oligodendroglia / metabolism
  • Oligodendroglia / pathology
  • Receptor, Transforming Growth Factor-beta Type I / metabolism
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta1 / metabolism


  • Transforming Growth Factor beta1
  • Receptor, Transforming Growth Factor-beta Type I