Human and mouse microglia express connexin36, and functional gap junctions are formed between rodent microglia and neurons

Konstantin Dobrenis, H. Y. Chang, M. H. Pina-Benabou, A. Woodroffe, S. C. Lee, R. Rozental, D. C. Spray, E. Scemes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


Microglia, the tissue macrophages of the central nervous system (CNS), intimately interact with neurons physically and through soluble factors that can affect microglial activation state and neuronal survival and physiology. We report here a new mechanism of interaction between these cells, provided by the formation of gap junctions composed of connexin (Cx) 36. Among eight Cxs tested, expression of Cx36 mRNA and protein was found in microglial cultures prepared from human and mouse, and Cx45 mRNA was found in mouse microglial cultures. Electrophysiological measurements found coupling between one-third of human or mouse microglial pairs that averaged below 30 pico-Siemens and displayed electrical properties consistent with Cx36 gap junctions. Importantly, similar frequency of low-strength electrical coupling was also obtained between microglia and neurons in cocultures prepared from neocortical or hippocampal rodent tissue. Lucifer yellow dye coupling between neurons and microglia was observed in 4% of pairs tested, consistent with the low strength and incidence of electrical coupling. Cx36 expression level and/or the degree of coupling between microglia did not significantly change in the presence of activating agents, including lipopolysaccharide, granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor, interferon-γ, and tumor necrosis factor-α, except for some reduction of Cx36 protein when exposed to the latter two agents. Our findings that intercellular coupling occurs between neuronal and microglial populations through Cx36 gap junctions have potentially important implications for normal neural physiology and microglial responses in neuronopathology in the mammalian CNS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)306-315
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 1 2005


  • Activated microglia
  • Connexin43
  • Dye coupling
  • Electrical coupling
  • Intercellular communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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