Microglia need microbiota for normal maturation and function

Microglia are important immune system cells in the brain that can destroy target cells. They are important for proper brain development and associated with neuropsychiatric or neurological disorders in humans.

A team of researchers set out to address this question: what controls microglia maturation and function under normal conditions? They found that host microbiota contributed substantially to microglia homeostasis. Germ-free mice had ‘global defects’ in their microglia, with altered cell proportions and impairments in their innate immune responses. In these mice, other central nervous system cell populations appeared to be unaltered. Mice with a limited microbiota complexity also had defective microglia. Adding back a complex microbiota partially restored microglia features.

Mice that were deficient in the short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) receptor FFAR2 were similar to the mice under germ-free conditions, suggesting that SCFAs produced by the microbiota have a key role in regulating microglia homeostasis.


Erny D, et al. (2015) Host microbiota constantly control maturation and function of microglia in the CNS. Nature Neuroscience doi:10.1038/nn.4030

Paul Enck
Paul Enck
Prof. Dr. Paul Enck, Director of Research, Dept. of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, University Hospital Tübingen, Germany. His main interests are gut functions in health and disease, including functional and inflammatory bowel disorders, the role of the gut microbiota, regulation of eating and food intake and its disorders, of nausea, vomiting and motion sickness, and the psychophysiology and neurobiology of the placebo response, with specific emphasis on age and gender contributions. He has published more than 170 original data paper in scientific, peer-reviewed journals, and more than 250 book chapters and review articles. He is board member/treasurer of the European Society of Neurogastroenterology and Motility and of the German Society of Neurogastroenterology and Motility, and has served as reviewer for many international journals and grant agencies.