Microglial recruitment and mechanisms involved in the disruption of afferent synaptic terminals on spinal cord motor neurons after acute peripheral nerve injury
Casanovas i Llorens, Anna
MetadataShow full item record
Peripheral nerve section with subsequent disconnection of motor neuron (MN) cell bodies from their skeletal muscle targets leads to a rapid reactive response involving the recruitment and activation of microglia. In addition, the loss of afferent synapses on MNs occurs in concomitance with microglial reaction by a process described as synaptic stripping. However, the way in which postaxotomy‐activated microglia adjacent to MNs are involved in synaptic removal is less defined. Here, we used confocal and electron microscopy to examine interactions between recruited microglial cells and presynaptic terminals in axotomized MNs between 1 and 15 days after sciatic nerve transection in mice. We did not observe any bulk engulfment of synaptic boutons by microglia. Instead, microglial cells internalized small membranous‐vesicular fragments which originated from the acute disruption of synaptic terminals involving the activation of the necroptotic pathway. The presence of abundant extracellular vesicles in the perineuronal space after axotomy, together with the increased expression of phospho‐mixed lineage kinase domain‐like protein and, later, of extracellular vesicle markers, such as CD9, CD63, and flotillin, indicate that the vesicles mainly originated in synapses and were transferred to microglia. The upregulation of Rab7 and Rab10 in microglia interacting with injured MNs, indicated the activation of endocytosis. As activated microglia and synaptic boutons displayed positive C1q immunoreactivity, a complement‐mediated opsonization may also contribute to microglial‐mediated synaptic disruption. In addition to the relevance of our data in the context of neuroinflammation and MN disease, they should also be taken into account for understanding functional recovery after peripheral nerve injury.