• Open Access

Charge compensation for NADPH oxidase activity in microglia in rat brain slices does not involve a proton current


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Dr D. Attwell, as above.
E-mail: D.Attwell@ucl.ac.uk


The membrane properties of isolated cultured microglia have been extensively studied but it is important to understand their properties in situ, where they protect the brain against infection, but also contribute to neurodegenerative diseases. Microglia and macrophages attack bacteria by generating reactive oxygen species, a process which involves NADPH oxidase pumping electrons out across the cell membrane. The resulting inward current evokes a depolarization, which would inhibit the activity of the NADPH oxidase if there were no charge-compensating current which moves positive charge out across the membrane. The mechanism of this charge compensation is controversial. In neutrophils and in cultured microglia a depolarization-activated H+ conductance has been proposed to provide charge compensation, and also to remove protons generated intracellularly by the NADPH oxidase. Alternatively, a depolarization-activated K+ conductance has been proposed to mediate charge compensation. Here we show that in microglia, either in the resting state or when activated by the bacterial coat component lipopolysaccharide, both in acute and in cultured hippocampal slices, no significant H+ current is detectable. This implies that the membrane properties of microglia in their normal cellular environment differ from those of cultured microglia (similarly, microglia generated a current in response to ATP but, unlike in culture, not to glutamate or GABA). Furthermore, the K+ current (Kv1.3) that is activated by lipopolysaccharide is inactivated by depolarization, making it unsuitable for mediating charge compensation on a long time scale at positive voltages. Instead, charge compensation may be mediated by a previously undescribed non-selective cation current.