Differential accumulation of storage bodies with aging defines discrete subsets of microglia in the healthy brain
Burns, Jeremy Carlos
MetadataShow full item record
Microglia are a unique type of immune cell found within the brain, spinal cord and retina. In the healthy brain, their job is to support neurons, defend against infectious microbes, clear extracellular debris and remove dead or dying cells through phagocytosis. This diverse array of functions presents the possibility of unique subsets of microglia existing in the healthy brain, yet none have been described thus far. By utilizing cellular autofluorescence as a discriminating characteristic, we identified two novel subsets of microglia present in the healthy brains of mice and non-human primates. Approximately 70% of microglia displayed autofluorescence (AF+) while the remaining 30% did not (AF–). While the proportion of AF+ and AF– microglia remained constant throughout most of adult life, the autofluorescence intensity increased exclusively in the AF+ subset at an almost linear rate with age. This gain in autofluorescence correlated with equivalent increases in the size and complexity of storage bodies, as detected by transmission electron microscopy and increases in LAMP1 levels, a key component of the lysosomal compartment. As the brain ages, lysosomal storage material builds up inside AF+ microglia, further increasing the accumulation of autofluorescence as a result. The analysis of protein content in autofluorescent subsets revealed that AF+ microglia produced more proteins and enzymes involved in the storage and degradation of waste material, as well as more proteins involved in the regulation of mTOR, a key cellular pathway governing nutrient availability and energy production. Interestingly, the disruption of lysosomal function in microglia through genetic mutations accelerated the accumulation of storage material in AF+ cells, which led to impaired microglia physiology and increased cell death, mimicking the effects observed during advanced aging. Increasing evidence suggests that the accumulation of waste materials inside the brain contributes to diseases of aging and these data are suggestive of a mechanistic convergence between aging and lysosomal storage disorders.
RightsAttribution 4.0 International