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Neuronal activity is closely influenced by glia, especially microglia which are the resident immune cells in the central nervous system (CNS). Microglia in medicinal leech are the only cells able to migrate to the injury site within the 24 hours post-lesion. The microglia-neuron interactions constitute an important mechanism as there is neither astrocyte nor oligodendrocyte in the leech CNS. Given that axonal sprouting is impaired when microglia recruitment is inhibited, the crosstalk between microglia and neurons plays a crucial role in neuroprotection. The present results show that neurons and microglia both use ALK4/5 (a type of TGF-β receptor) signaling in order to maintain mutual exchanges in an adult brain following an axonal injury. Indeed, a TGF-β family member (nGDF) is immediately released by injured axons contributing to the early recruitment of ALK4/5+ microglia to the lesion site. Surprisingly, within the following hours, nGDF from microglia activates ALK4/5+ neurons to maintain a later microglia accumulation in lesion. Taken together, the results demonstrate that ALK4/5 signaling is essential throughout the response to the lesion in the leech CNS and gives a new insight in the understanding of this pathway. This latter is an important signal contributing to a correct sequential mobilization over time of microglia recruitment leading to axon regeneration.


Antonella Raffo-Romero, Tanina Arab, Christelle Van Camp, Quentin Lemaire, Maxence Wisztorski, Julien Franck, Soulaimane Aboulouard, Francoise Le Marrec-Croq, Pierre-Eric Sautiere, Jacopo Vizioli, Michel Salzet, Christophe Lefebvre. ALK4/5-dependent TGF-β signaling contributes to the crosstalk between neurons and microglia following axonal lesion. Scientific reports. 2019 May 03;9(1):6896

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PMID: 31053759

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