Individual microglia move rapidly and directly to nerve lesions in the leech central nervous system

E. McGlade-McCulloh, A. M. Morrissey, F. Norona, K. J. Muller

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64 Scopus citations


Small cells called microglia, which collect at nerve lesions, were tracked as they moved within the leech nerve cord to crushes made minutes or hours before. The aim of this study was to determine whether microglia respond as a group and move en masse or instead move individually, at different rates, and whether they move along axons directly to the lesion or take another route, such as along the edges of the nerve cord. Cell nuclei in living nerve cords were stained with Hoechst 33258 dye and observed under dim ultraviolet illumination using fluorescence optics, a low-light video camera, and computer-assisted signal enhancement. Muscular movements of the cord were selectively reduced by bathing in 23 nM MgCl2. Regions of nerve cord within 300 μm of the crush were observed for 2-6 hr. Only a fraction of microglia, typically <50%, moved at any time, traveling toward the lesion at speeds up to 7 μm/min. Cells were moving as soon as observation began, within 15 min of crushing, and traveled directly toward the lesion along axons or axon tracts. Movements and roles of leech microglia are compared with their vertebrate counterparts, which are also active and respond to nerve injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1093-1097
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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