- In vivo analysis of neuronal clearance by microglia uncovers a new compartment in the phagocytic pathway -
Department of Molecular Life Sciences – Universität Zürich


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Apoptosis and cell clearance are mechanisms shaping several organs and tissues. The removal of dead neurons by microglia -the brain resident macrophages- is a hallmark of the development, homeostasis and disease of the central nervous system. The rate of neuronal corpse engulfment can be impressive, up to several neurons per hour. Thus, rapid and efficient intracellular processing of this material is essential during phagocytosis.

By combining in vivo studies on zebrafish microglia and in vitro characterization of mammalian macrophages we show that during their maturation, phagosomes shrink and converge into a distinct compartment in the cell, the gastrosome. Lack of Slc37a2, a sugar transporter localized on phagosomes, prevent their shrinkage leading to the expansion of the gastrosome upon fusion with the incoming vesicles. This process results in an impressive bloating of the cell and the loss of several microglial functionalities, such as migration as well as the ability to engulf new targets.

The identified cellular mechanisms uncover additional steps in the phagocytic pathway and provide a potential target for modulating the activities of microglia as well as other macrophages in development and disease.

Invited by: Marco BOCCHIO

Early carreer seminar

Monday June 29th, 11 am

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