• microglia;
  • phagocytosis;
  • mutant SOD1;
  • immunohistochemistry;
  • electron microscopy


Microglial activation occurs early during the pathogenesis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Recent evidence indicates that the expression of mutant Cu2+/Zn2+ superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) in microglia contributes to the late disease progression of ALS. However, the mechanism by which microglia influence the neurodegenerative process and disease progression in ALS remains unclear. In this study, we revealed that activated microglia aggregated in the lumbar spinal cord of presymptomatic mutant SOD1H46R transgenic rats, an animal model of familial ALS. The aggregated microglia expressed a marker of proliferating cell, Ki67, and phagocytic marker proteins ED1 and major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II. The motoneurons near the microglial aggregates showed weak choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) immunoreactivity and contained reduced granular endoplasmic reticulum and altered nucleus electron microscopically. Furthermore, immunopositive signals for tumor necrosis factor-α (TNFα) and monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1) were localized in the aggregated microglia. These results suggest that the activated and aggregated microglia represent phagocytic features in response to early changes in motoneurons and possibly play an important role in ALS disease progression during the presymptomatic stage. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.