This report describes the development of a new panel of monoclonal antibodies produced following immunization of mice with cultured rat microglial cells. Using these new reagents and previously defined antibodies that bind to microglia or macrophages, the responses of parenchymal microglia, perivascular "microglial" cells, and infiltrating macrophage/monocytes were examined in 4 divergent models of central nervous system reaction. These were brain abscess, experimental allergic encephalomyelitis, Wallerian degeneration, and stab wound. No single new antibody was specific only for microglia; all antibodies positively staining microglial cells also labeled various subsets of macrophage/monocytic cells in normal tissues of the immune system. Moreover, the results indicate that microglia are capable of different levels and a variety of types of response, as defined by the molecules they elaborate. These findings suggest that these CNS resident cells belong to the extended monocyte/macrophage/dendritic cell family and that they do not respond in a stereotypic manner to all forms of CNS insult.