Purines induce directed migration and rapid homing of microglia to injured pyramidal neurons in developing hippocampus

Dana Kurpius, Eric P. Nolley, Michael E. Dailey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Traumatic CNS injury activates and mobilizes resident parenchymal microglia (MG), which rapidly accumulate near injured neurons where they transform into phagocytes. The mechanisms underlying this rapid 'homing' in situ are unknown. Using time-lapse confocal imaging in acutely excised neonatal hippocampal slices, we show that rapid accumulation of MG near somata of injured pyramidal neurons in the stratum pyramidale (SP) results from directed migration from tissue regions immediately adjacent to (<200 μm from) the SP. Time-lapse sequences also reveal a 'spreading activation wave' wherein MG situated progressively farther from the SP begin to migrate later and exhibit less directional migration toward the SP. Because purines have been implicated in MG activation and chemotaxis, we tested whether ATP/ADP released from injured pyramidal neurons might account for these patterns of MG behavior. Indeed, application of apyrase, which degrades extracellular ATP/ADP, inhibits MG motility and homing to injured neurons in the SP. Moreover, bath application of exogenous ATP/ADP disrupts MG homing by inducing directional migration toward the slice exterior and away from injured neurons. These results indicate that extracellular ATP/ADP is both necessary and sufficient to induce directional migration and rapid homing of neonatal MG to injured neurons in situ. Rapid, ATP/ADP-dependent MG homing may promote clearance of dead and dying cells and help limit secondary damage during the critical first few hours after neuronal injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)873-884
Number of pages12
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jun 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • ATP
  • Brain slice
  • CNS trauma
  • Migration
  • Motility
  • Time-lapse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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