Microglia, besides being able to react rapidly to a wide range of environmental changes, are also involved in shaping neuronal wiring. Indeed, they actively participate in the modulation of neuronal function by regulating the elimination (or "pruning") of weaker synapses in both physiologic and pathologic processes. Mounting evidence supports their crucial role in early synaptic loss, which is emerging as a hallmark of several neurodegenerative diseases, including multiple sclerosis (MS) and its preclinical models. MS is an inflammatory, immune-mediated pathology of the white matter in which demyelinating lesions may cause secondary neuronal death. Nevertheless, primitive grey matter (GM) damage is emerging as an important contributor to patients' long-term disability, since it has been associated with early and progressive cognitive decline (CD), which seriously worsens the quality of life of MS patients. Widespread synapse loss even in the absence of demyelination, axon degeneration and neuronal death has been demonstrated in different GM structures, thus raising the possibility that synaptic dysfunction could be an early and possibly independent event in the neurodegenerative process associated with MS. This review provides an overview of microglial-dependent synapse elimination in the neuroinflammatory process that underlies MS and its experimental models.
- experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE)
- multiple sclerosis
- synaptic loss