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The subpopulation of microglia expressing functional muscarinic acetylcholine receptors expands in stroke and Alzheimer’s disease

Pannell, M;Meier, MA;Szulzewsky, F;Matyash, V;Endres, M;Kronenberg, G;Prinz, V;Waiczies, S;Wolf, SA;Kettenmann, H;

Microglia undergo a process of activation in pathology which is controlled by many factors including neurotransmitters. We found that a subpopulation (11 %) of freshly isolated adult microglia respond to the muscarinic acetylcholine receptor agonist carbachol with a Ca(2+) increase and a subpopulation of similar size (16 %) was observed by FACS analysis using an antibody against the M3 receptor subtype. The carbachol-sensitive population increased in microglia/brain macrophages isolated from tissue of mouse models for stroke (60 %) and Alzheimer’s disease (25 %), but not for glioma and multiple sclerosis. Microglia cultured from adult and neonatal brain contained a carbachol-sensitive subpopulation (8 and 9 %), which was increased by treatment with interferon- to around 60 %. This increase was sensitive to blockers of protein synthesis and correlated with an upregulation of the M3 receptor subtype and with an increased expression of MHC-I and MHC-II. Carbachol was a chemoattractant for microglia and decreased their phagocytic activity.