Partial reduction of microglia does not affect tau pathology in aged mice

Rachel E. Bennett, Annie Bryant, Miwei Hu, Ashley B. Robbins, Sarah C. Hopp, Bradley T. Hyman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Background: Activation of inflammation pathways in the brain occurs in Alzheimer's disease and may contribute to the accumulation and spread of pathological proteins including tau. The goal of this study was to identify how changes in microglia, a key inflammatory cell type, may contribute to tau protein accumulation and pathology-associated changes in immune and non-immune cell processes such as neuronal degeneration, astrocyte physiology, cytokine expression, and blood vessel morphology. Methods: We used PLX3397 (290 mg/kg), a colony-stimulating factor receptor 1 (CSF1R) inhibitor, to reduce the number of microglia in the brains of a tau-overexpressing mouse model. Mice were fed PLX3397 in chow or a control diet for 3 months beginning at 12 months of age and then were subsequently analyzed for changes in blood vessel morphology by in vivo two-photon microscopy and tissues were collected for biochemistry and histology. Results: PLX3397 reduced microglial numbers by 30% regardless of genotype compared to control diet-treated mice. No change in tau burden, cortical atrophy, blood vessels, or astrocyte activation was detected. All Tg4510 mice were observed to have an increased in "disease-associated" microglial gene expression, but PLX3397 treatment did not reduce expression of these genes. Surprisingly, PLX3397 treatment resulted in upregulation of CD68 and Tgf1β. Conclusions: Manipulating microglial activity may not be an effective strategy to combat tau pathological lesions. Higher doses of PLX3397 may be required or earlier intervention in the disease course. Overall, this indicates a need for a better understanding of specific microglial changes and their relation to the disease process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number311
JournalJournal of Neuroinflammation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 9 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Microglia
  • Tau

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Immunology
  • Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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