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Transferrin Enhances Microglial Phagocytic Capacity

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Transferrin (Tf) is a glycoprotein playing a critical role in iron homeostasis and transport and distribution throughout the body and within tissues and cells. This molecule has been shown to accelerate the process of myelination and remyelination in the central nervous system (CNS) in vivo and induce oligodendroglial cell maturation in vitro. While the mechanisms involved in oligodendroglial precursor cell (OPC) differentiation have not been fully elucidated yet, our group has previously described the first molecular events taking place in OPC in response to extracellular Tf. Here, we show the effect of Tf on the different glial cell populations. We demonstrate that, after a CNS demyelinating injury, Tf can be incorporated by all glial cells—i.e., microglia, astrocytes, and OPC—and that, acting on microglial cells in vitro, Tf increases microglial proliferation rates and phagocytic capacity. It may be then speculated that the in vivo correlation of this process could generate a favorable microenvironment for OPC maturation and remyelination.

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Human apotransferrin




Corpus callosum


Cluster of differentiation 11b (integrin alpha M)


Central nervous system





Cyt B:

Cytochalasin B


Enzyme immunoassays


Fetal calf serum


Glial fibrillary acidic protein


Griffonia simplicifolia isolectin B4


bisbenzimide H-33258


Horseradish peroxidase


Intracranial injection






Myelin basic protein


Multiple sclerosis


Thiazolyl blue tetrazolium bromide


Neural/glial antigen 2




Oligodendrocyte precursor cells


Platelet-derived growth factor receptor-alpha




Propidium iodide




Tf receptor 1


Human Tf conjugated to Texas Red


Tumor necrosis factor alpha


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The authors are grateful to Dr. Lucas Silvestroff for insightful comments and helpful discussions on this manuscript and María Marta Rancez for the revision of English spelling, grammar, and style in the manuscript.

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This work was supported by grants from the Agencia Nacional de Promoción Científica y Tecnológica (BID- PICT 2015-0503) and the University of Buenos Aires (UBA).

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Correspondence to María Julia Pérez.

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Carden, T.R., Correale, J., Pasquini, J.M. et al. Transferrin Enhances Microglial Phagocytic Capacity. Mol Neurobiol 56, 6324–6340 (2019).

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