Wilhelmsson U, Andersson D, de Pablo Y, Pekny R, Ståhlberg A, Mulder J, Mitsios N, Hortobágyi T, Pekny M, Pekna M
Cereb. Cortex 27 (6) 3360-3377 [2017-06-01; online 2017-04-12]
Microglia and astrocytes have been considered until now as cells with very distinct identities. Here, we assessed the heterogeneity within microglia/monocyte cell population in mouse hippocampus and determined their response to injury, by using single-cell gene expression profiling of cells isolated from uninjured and deafferented hippocampus. We found that in individual cells, microglial markers Cx3cr1, Aif1, Itgam, and Cd68 were co-expressed. Interestingly, injury led to the co-expression of the astrocyte marker Gfap in a subpopulation of Cx3cr1-expressing cells from both the injured and contralesional hippocampus. Cells co-expressing astrocyte and microglia markers were also detected in the in vitro LPS activation/injury model and in sections from human brain affected by stroke, Alzheimer's disease, and Lewy body dementia. Our findings indicate that injury and chronic neurodegeneration lead to the appearance of cells that share molecular characteristics of both microglia and astrocytes, 2 cell types with distinct embryologic origin and function.