Local distribution of microglia in the normal adult human central nervous system differs by up to one order of magnitude

M. Mittelbronn, K. Dietz, H. J. Schluesener, R. Meyermann*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

352 Citations (Scopus)


Although microglia are considered to be a sensitive sensor for pathological processes in the central nervous system, there are only a few studies about the distribution and density of microglia in the normal human brain. Therefore, a study of local density of microglial cells was conducted by investigating 20 normal human brains with no clinical neurological symptoms or diseases and no neuropathological alterations. Microglial cells were visualized by immunolabeling of proteins which are known to be expressed either constitutively or facultatively, such as CD68, major histocompatibility complex class II (MHC-II), leukocyte common antigen (LCA), leukocyte chemotactic factor (LCF), macrophage inhibitory factor-related protein (MRP) 8, MRP14, CD4 and allograft-inflammatory factor-1 (AIF-1). CD68, MHC-II and AIF-1 showed the highest densities with significant regional differences ranging from 0.5% to 16.6% of all cells in the brain parenchyma with significantly more microglia in white than in gray matter. LCF and LCA showed a similar pattern of distribution as the proteins described above, but with lower percentages of microglial cells. CD4 was not found in the brain parenchyma. We conclude that CD68, MHC-II and AIF-1 define the main microglial cell population, whereas LCF and LCA are expressed by a subpopulation of microglial cells. The brains showed no or a negligible vascular expression of MRP8 and MRP14. Information about the local microglia density in the normal human brain can serve as a reference for the evaluation of pathological microglial responses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-255
Number of pages7
JournalActa Neuropathologica
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Human brain
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Microglia
  • Protein expression


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