Physiology of Microglia

  • Tuan Leng TayEmail author
  • Micaël Carrier
  • Marie-Ève TremblayEmail author
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 1175)


Microglia constitute the major immune cells that permanently reside in the central nervous system (CNS) alongside neurons and other glial cells. These resident immune cells are critical for proper brain development, actively maintain brain health throughout the lifespan and rapidly adapt their function to the physiological or pathophysiological needs of the organism. Cutting-edge fate mapping and imaging techniques applied to animal models enabled a revolution in our understanding of their roles during normal physiological conditions. Here, we highlight studies that demonstrate the embryonic yolk sac origin of microglia and describe factors, including crosstalk with the periphery and external environment, that regulate their differentiation, homeostasis and function in the context of healthy CNS. The diversity of microglial phenotypes observed across the lifespan, between brain compartments and between sexes is also discussed. Understanding what defines specific microglial phenotypes is critical for the development of innovative therapies to modulate their effector functions and improve clinical outcomes.


Microglia Origin Development Homeostasis Physiological roles Periphery Environment 



This work was supported by a grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) RGPIN-2014-05308 to M.E.T., who is a Canada Research Chair of Neuroimmune plasticity in health and therapy. T.L.T. was supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG, TA 1029/1-1 and EXC 1086), Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts of Baden-Württemberg (7532.21/2.1.6), Klaus Tschira Boost Fund (KT10), and Wissenschaftliche Gesellschaft Freiburg (Helmut-Holzer Prize). M.C. is a recipient of the Master training awards from Université Laval and Fonds de recherche du Québec—Santé (FRQS). We are grateful to Julie C. Savage for critical comments on the manuscript and Maude Bordeleau for preparing the figure.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no competing financial interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Biology IUniversity of FreiburgFreiburgGermany
  2. 2.Cluster of Excellence BrainLinks-BrainToolsUniversity of FreiburgFreiburgGermany
  3. 3.Institute of Biology IIIUniversity of FreiburgFreiburgGermany
  4. 4.Axe NeurosciencesCentre de Recherche du CHU de QuébecQuébecCanada

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