How Many Cell Types Does It Take to Wire a Brain?

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Science  09 Sep 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6048, pp. 1391-1392
DOI: 10.1126/science.1212112

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Microglia, highly mobile immune cells that reside in the central nervous system, are traditionally viewed as “barometers” of the brain because they rapidly respond to cellular damage caused by injury and disease by engulfing and cleaning up debris (1). Imaging studies, however, have revealed that microglia are also ceaselessly active in healthy brains, and other studies have shown that this activity is often associated with synapses, which move signals between neurons (24). Despite these intriguing observations, the function of microglia at healthy synapses has been elusive. On page 1456 of this issue, Paolicelli et al. (5) help pin it down. They demonstrate that micro glia are involved in the development of brain wiring in newborn mice and that disrupting micro gliasynapse interactions delays the maturation of synaptic circuits. The finding offers insight into the mechanisms underlying synapse maturation and into brain diseases in which synaptic connectivity is altered.