Microglia coordinate various functions in the central nervous system ranging from removing synaptic connections, to maintaining brain homeostasis by monitoring neuronal function, and clearing protein aggregates across the lifespan. Here we investigated whether increased microglial phagocytic activity that clears amyloid can also cause pathological synapse loss. We identified TDP-43, a DNA-RNA binding protein encoded by the Tardbp gene, as a strong regulator of microglial phagocytosis. Mice lacking TDP-43 in microglia exhibit reduced amyloid load in a model of Alzheimer's disease (AD) but at the same time display drastic synapse loss, even in the absence of amyloid. Clinical examination from TDP-43 pathology cases reveal a considerably reduced prevalence of AD and decreased amyloid pathology compared to age-matched healthy controls, confirming our experimental results. Overall, our data suggest that dysfunctional microglia might play a causative role in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative disorders, critically modulating the early stages of cognitive decline. Paolicelli et al. show that TDP-43 is a regulator of microglial phagocytosis. They found that mice lacking microglial TDP-43 display enhanced amyloid clearance but also significant synapse loss. They also show that TDP-43 pathology is associated with reduced amyloid burden in human brains.
- Alzheimer's Disease
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
- Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration
- Synapse Loss
- Synaptic Pruning
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