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Scientific Reports


Microglial cells are the primary resident immune cells in the retina. In healthy adults, they are ramified; that is, they have extensive processes that move continually. In adult retinas, microglia maintain the normal structure and function of neurons and other glial cells, but the mechanism underlying this process is not well-understood. In the mouse hippocampus, microglia engulf small pieces of axons and presynaptic terminals via a process called trogocytosis. Here we report that microglia in the adult macaque retina also engulf pieces of neurons and glial cells, but not at sites of synapses. We analyzed microglia in a volume of serial, ultrathin sections of central macaque retina in which many neurons that ramify in the inner plexiform layer (IPL) had been reconstructed previously. We surveyed the IPL and identified the somas of microglia by their small size and scant cytoplasm. We then reconstructed the microglia and studied their interactions with other cells. We found that ramified microglia frequently ingested small pieces of each major type of inner retinal neuron and Müller glial cells via trogocytosis. There were a few instances where the interactions took place near synapses, but the synapses, themselves, were never engulfed. If trogocytosis by retinal microglia plays a role in synaptic remodeling, it was not apparent from the ultrastructure. Instead, we propose that trogocytosis enables these microglia to present antigens derived from normal inner retinal cells and, when activated, they would promote antigen-specific tolerance.


Animals, Mice, Microglia, Trogocytosis, Retina, Neuroglia, Retinal Neurons



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