Microglia, the resident macrophages of the central nervous system, are characterised by a highly specialized morphology and unusual antigenic phenotype. Microglia appear to be downregulated by their microenvironment when compared to other tissue macrophages. We have studied the microglia in brains of healthy, aged rats with a panel of monoclonal antibodies. We have found that microglia in the brains of these aged rats express antigens that are downregulated or absent from microglia of juvenile rats. The stimuli which give rise to this upregulated phenotype are not known. Age related changes in the phenotype of microglia should be taken into account when considering the possible role of microglia in neuropathological conditions.