Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by a non-cell autonomous motor neuron loss. While it is generally believed that the disease onset takes place inside motor neurons, different cell types mediating neuroinflammatory processes are considered deeply involved in the progression of the disease. On these grounds, many treatments have been tested on ALS animals with the aim of inhibiting or reducing the pro-inflammatory action of microglia and astrocytes and counteract the progression of the disease. Unfortunately, these anti-inflammatory therapies have been only modestly successful. The non-univocal role played by microglia during stress and injuries might explain this failure. Indeed, it is now well recognized that, during ALS, microglia displays different phenotypes, from surveillant in early stages, to activated states, M1 and M2, characterized by the expression of respectively harmful and protective genes in later phases of the disease. Consistently, the inhibition of microglial function seems to be a valid strategy only if the different stages of microglia polarization are taken into account, interfering with the reactivity of microglia specifically targeting only the harmful pathways and/or potentiating the trophic ones. In this review article, we will analyze the features and timing of microglia activation in the light of M1/M2 phenotypes in the main mice models of ALS. Moreover, we will also revise the results obtained by different anti-inflammatory therapies aimed to unbalance the M1/M2 ratio, shifting it towards a protective outcome.
- M1/M2 microglia
- amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- anti-inflammatory drugs
- genetic modifiers
- mutant SOD1 mice