Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) including classic autism is a group of complex developmental disabilities with core deficits of impaired social interactions, communication difficulties and repetitive behaviors. Although the neurobiology of ASDs has attracted much attention in the last two decades, the role of microglia has been ignored. Existing data are focused on their recognized role in neuroinflammation, which only covers a small part of the pathological repertoire of microglia. This review highlights recent findings on the broader roles of microglia, including their active surveillance of brain microenvironments and regulation of synaptic connectivity, maturation of brain circuitry and neurogenesis. Emerging evidence suggests that microglia respond to pre- and postnatal environmental stimuli through epigenetic interface to change gene expression, thus acting as effectors of experience-dependent synaptic plasticity. Impairments of these microglial functions could substantially contribute to several major etiological factors of autism, such as environmental toxins and cortical underconnectivity. Our recent study on Rett syndrome, a syndromic autistic disorder, provides an example that intrinsic microglial dysfunction due to genetic and epigenetic aberrations could detrimentally affect the developmental trajectory without evoking neuroinflammation. We propose that ASDs provide excellent opportunities to study the influence of microglia on neurodevelopment, and this knowledge could lead to novel therapies.
"Proposed roles include “fine-tuning” CNS structure, promoting axonal growth, directing neuronal migration, determining neuronal phenotypes, interacting with oligodendrocytes in myelination, influencing vascularization, and disposing of debris and normally dying cells. Through epigenetic, structural, and other mechanisms, they may also contribute to developmental disruptions and subsequent neuropathology such as in fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, Down's syndrome, autism, and schizophrenia (Hao et al., 2001a,b; Aarum et al., 2003; McAllister and Miller, 2010; Maezawa et al., 2011; Paolicelli et al., 2011). There are many opportunities to test the ability of fractal analysis to contribute to our knowledge of early development. "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: It is well established that microglial form and function are inextricably linked. In recent years, the traditional view that microglial form ranges between "ramified resting" and "activated amoeboid" has been emphasized through advancing imaging techniques that point to microglial form being highly dynamic even within the currently accepted morphological categories. Moreover, microglia adopt meaningful intermediate forms between categories, with considerable crossover in function and varying morphologies as they cycle, migrate, wave, phagocytose, and extend and retract fine and gross processes. From a quantitative perspective, it is problematic to measure such variability using traditional methods, but one way of quantitating such detail is through fractal analysis. The techniques of fractal analysis have been used for quantitating microglial morphology, to categorize gross differences but also to differentiate subtle differences (e.g., amongst ramified cells). Multifractal analysis in particular is one technique of fractal analysis that may be useful for identifying intermediate forms. Here we review current trends and methods of fractal analysis, focusing on box counting analysis, including lacunarity and multifractal analysis, as applied to microglial morphology.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Rett syndrome (RTT) is a pervasive developmental disorder, primarily affecting girls with a prevalence of 1 in every 10,000 births; it represents the second most common cause of intellectual disability in females. Mutations in the gene encoding methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MECP2) have been identified as clear etiological factors in more than 90% of classical RTT cases. Whereas the mechanisms leading to the severe, progressive and specific neurological dysfunctions when this gene is mutated still remain to be elucidated, a series of different mouse models have been generated, bearing different Mecp2 mutation. Neurobehavioural analysis in these mouse lines have been carried out and phenotyping analysis can be now utilised to preclinically evaluate the effects of potential RTT treatments. This review summarizes the different results achieved in this research field taking into account different key targets identified to ameliorate RTT phenotype in mouse models, including those not directly downstream of MeCP2 and those limited to the early phases of postnatal development. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled 'Neurodevelopment Disorder'.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Glial cells consisting of oligodendrocytes, astrocytes, microglia, and NG2 positive cells are major cell populations in the central nervous system, number-wise. They function as effectors and modulators of neurodevelopment through a wide variety of neuron-glial cell interactions in brain development and functions. Glial cells can be affected by both genetic and environmental factors, leading to their dysfunctions in supporting neuronal development and functions. These in turn can affect neuronal cells, causing alterations at the circuitry level that manifest as behavioral characteristics associated with schizophrenia in late teens-early twenties. Glial cells are also involved in neuroinflammatory processes, which sometimes have deleterious effects on the normal brain development. If the glial involvement plays significant roles in schizophrenia, the processes involving glial cells can become possible therapeutic targets for schizophrenia. A number of known antipsychotics are shown to have beneficial effects on glial cells, but other drugs targeting glial cell functions may also have therapeutic effects on schizophrenia. The latter can be taken into consideration for future drug development for schizophrenia.
Neurobiology of Disease 11/2012; 53. DOI:10.1016/j.nbd.2012.11.001 · 5.08 Impact Factor
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