Dynamic motility of microglia: Purinergic modulation of microglial movement in the normal and pathological brain

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Abstract

Microglia have highly branched and motile cell processes and constantly screen the brain parenchyma under physiological conditions. In response to pathological stimuli, microglia exhibit morphological changes and migrate toward the lesioned site, where they play important roles in inflammatory reactions and neuronal damage. Within minutes of brain damage, microglial processes rapidly extend toward the injured site. The chemoattractive response is triggered by ATP released at the site of injury and the consequent activation of the purinergic receptor P2Y12R on microglia. In addition to the purinergic signals, various neuronal signaling molecules actively and negatively control microglial motility, which is important for regulating the functional activation of microglia in response to pathology. In this review, we focus on the dynamic motion of microglia and describe several key molecules regulating microglial motility in normal and pathological brain tissues. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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