Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Gardening in the brain: Cells called microglia prune the connections between neurons, shaping how the brain is wired

Date:
July 22, 2011
Source:
European Molecular Biology Laboratory
Summary:
Gardeners know that some trees require regular pruning: some of their branches have to be cut so that others can grow stronger. The same is true of the developing brain: cells called microglia prune the connections between neurons, shaping how the brain is wired, scientists have discovered. The findings could one day help understand neurodevelopmental disorders like autism.

Microglia (green) in a mouse brain. The nuclei of all cells in the brain are labelled blue.
Credit: EMBL/R. Paolicelli

Gardeners know that some trees require regular pruning: some of their branches have to be cut so that others can grow stronger. The same is true of the developing brain: cells called microglia prune the connections between neurons, shaping how the brain is wired, scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Monterotondo, Italy, discovered. Published online in Science, the findings could one day help understand neurodevelopmental disorders like autism.

Related Articles


"We're very excited, because our data shows microglia are critical to get the connectivity right in the brain," says Cornelius Gross, who led the work: "they 'eat up' synapses to make space for the most effective contacts between neurons to grow strong."

Microglia are related to the white blood cells that engulf pathogens and cellular debris, and scientists knew already that microglia perform that same clean-up task when the brain is injured, 'swallowing up' dead and dying neurons. Looking at the developing mouse brain under the microscope, Gross and colleagues found proteins from synapses -- the connections between neurons -- inside microglia, indicating that microglia are able to engulf synapses too.

To probe further, the scientists introduced a mutation that reduced the number of microglia in the developing mouse brain.

"What we saw was similar to what others have seen in at least some cases of autism in humans: many more connections between neurons," Gross says. "So we should be aware that changes in how microglia work might be a major factor in neurodevelopmental disorders that have altered brain wiring."

The microglia-limiting mutation the EMBL scientists used has only temporary effects, so eventually the number of microglia increases and the mouse brain establishes the right connections. However, this happens later in development than it normally would, and Gross and colleagues would now like to find out if that delay has long-term consequences. Does it affect the behaviour of the mice behaviour, for example? At the same time, Gross and colleagues plan to investigate what microglia do in the healthy adult brain, where their role is essentially unknown.

This work was carried out in collaboration with the groups of Davide Ragozzino at the University of Rome and Maurizio Giustetto and Patrizia Panzanelli at the University of Turin.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by European Molecular Biology Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Rosa C. Paolicelli, Giulia Bolasco, Francesca Pagani, Laura Maggi, Maria Scianni, Patrizia Panzanelli, Maurizio Giustetto, Tiago Alves Ferreira, Eva Guiducci, Laura Dumas, Davide Ragozzino, Cornelius T. Gross. Synaptic Pruning by Microglia Is Necessary for Normal Brain Development. Science, 2011; DOI: 10.1126/science.1202529

Cite This Page:

European Molecular Biology Laboratory. "Gardening in the brain: Cells called microglia prune the connections between neurons, shaping how the brain is wired." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 July 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110721142410.htm>.
European Molecular Biology Laboratory. (2011, July 22). Gardening in the brain: Cells called microglia prune the connections between neurons, shaping how the brain is wired. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 27, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110721142410.htm
European Molecular Biology Laboratory. "Gardening in the brain: Cells called microglia prune the connections between neurons, shaping how the brain is wired." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110721142410.htm (accessed January 27, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola Mistakes Should Serve a Lesson Says WHO

Ebola Mistakes Should Serve a Lesson Says WHO

AFP (Jan. 25, 2015) The World Health Organization&apos;s chief on Sunday admitted the UN agency had been caught napping on Ebola, saying it should serve a lesson to avoid similar mistakes in future. Duration: 00:55 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Disneyland Measles Outbreak Spreads To 5 States

Disneyland Measles Outbreak Spreads To 5 States

Newsy (Jan. 24, 2015) Much of the Disneyland measles outbreak is being blamed on the anti-vaccination movement. The CDC encourages just about everyone get immunized. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Growing Measles Outbreak Worries Calif. Parents

Growing Measles Outbreak Worries Calif. Parents

AP (Jan. 23, 2015) Public health officials are rushing to contain a measles outbreak that has sickened 70 people across 6 states and Mexico. The AP&apos;s Raquel Maria Dillon has more. (Jan. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smart Wristband to Shock Away Bad Habits

Smart Wristband to Shock Away Bad Habits

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Jan. 23, 2015) A Boston start-up is developing a wristband they say will help users break bad habits by jolting them with an electric shock. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins