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Keywords:

  • astrocytes;
  • haematopoietic cells;
  • interleukin 34;
  • microglia;
  • monocytes;
  • triggering receptor expressing on myeloid cells-2 (TREM2)

Aims

Microglia are the resident immune cells in the central nervous system, originating from haematopoietic-derived myeloid cells. A microglial cell is a double-edged sword, which has both pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory functions. Although understanding the role of microglia in pathological conditions has become increasingly important, histopathology has been the only way to investigate microglia in human diseases.

Methods

To enable the study of microglial cells in vitro, we here establish a culture system to induce microglia-like cells from haematopoietic cells by coculture with astrocytes. The characteristics of microglia-like cells were analysed by flow cytometry and functional assay.

Results

We show that triggering receptor expressing on myeloid cells-2-expressing microglia-like cells could be induced from lineage negative cells or monocytes by coculture with astrocytes. Microglia-like cells exhibited lower expression of CD45 and MHC class II than macrophages, a characteristic similar to brain microglia. When introduced into brain slice cultures, these microglia-like cells changed their morphology to a ramified shape on the first day of the culture. Moreover, we demonstrated that microglia-like cells could be induced from human monocytes by coculture with astrocytes. Finally, we showed that interleukin 34 was an important factor in the induction of microglia-like cells from haematopoietic cells in addition to cell–cell contact with astrocytes. Purified microglia-like cells were suitable for further culture and functional analyses.

Conclusion

Development of in vitro induction system for microglia will further promote the study of human microglial cells under pathological conditions as well as aid in the screening of drugs to target microglial cells.