Microglia markers

At-a-glance guide to microglial markers

Microglia are the macrophages of the brain and spinal cord and act as an immune defense in the central nervous system (CNS). Due to the shared lineage of microglia and macrophages, many markers are common to both cell types. This guide presents commonly-used microglial markers, with a particular focus on the new microglial-specific marker, TMEM119.

TMEM119 is a cell-surface protein and a specific microglial marker for both mouse and human. Unlike other microglial markers, this marker has the advantage that is isn’t expressed by macrophages or other immune or neural cell types.

Mouse brain tissue sections stained with  anti-TMEM119 (green) (ab209064).

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Choosing a TMEM119 antibody:

CD11b and CD45
A combination of CD11b and CD45 labeling can be used to distinguish microglia from macrophages. Resting microglia are CD11bhi, CD45low, whereas macrophages are CD11bhi, CD45hi.

Rat brain tissue sections stained with anti-CD11b/c [OX42] (red) (ab1211).

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Ionized calcium binding adaptor molecule 1 (Iba1) is a microglial and macrophage-specific calcium-binding protein that is involved with the membrane ruffling and phagocytosis in activated microglia.

Mouse brain tissue sections stained with anti-Iba1 (ab5076).

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CX3CR1 is the fractalkine receptor and is found on the surface of both microglia and macrophages in the CNS where it responds to CX3CL1 (fractalkine) secreted by neurons

Human microglia (induced from monocytes) stained with anti-CX3CR1 (green) (ab8021).

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F4/80 is a 160 KDa glycoprotein found on the surface of macrophages and resting microglia.

Mouse brain sections stained with anti-F4/80 [CI:A3-1] (ab6640).

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CD68 is a lysosomal protein expressed in high levels by macrophages and activated microglia and in low levels by resting microglia.

Human brain tissue sections stained with anti-CD68 (ab955).

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CD40 is a cell surface molecule necessary for antigen presentation and expressed by activated microglia and macrophages.

Human tonsil sections stained with anti-CD40 (ab13545).

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Click here for further information on microglial subtypes and markers.


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