Microglia in human retina: A heterogeneous population with distinct ontogenies Academic Article uri icon


  • Microglia of the adult human retina are a heterogeneous population of cells, some having characteristics of dendritic antigen presenting cells (DC) and others resembling macrophages, or MPS cells. Studies of the development of microglial distributions in human retina suggest that cells bearing macrophage markers are ontogenetically distinct from microglia that do not. Quantitative studies indicate that macrophage antigen immunoreactive microglia are a subpopulation CD45- and MHC-immunoreactive microglia. While CD45 and MHC-I and -II immunoreactive microglia are seen in the retina prior to the arrival of the vasculature, significant numbers of macrophage-positive microglia only arrive along with the vascular precursors, at about 14 to 15 weeks of gestation. Microglia appear to enter the retina from the ciliary margin prior to vascularization but from both the optic disc and ciliary margin, postvascularization. Macrophage antigen positive microglia enter the retina mainly via the optic nerve head. It is argued that macrophage-antigen positive microglia become established in the retina as vessel associated (perivascular and paravascular) microglia and that the MHC-positive, but macrophage-antigen negative microglia (representing DC), become established as the parenchymal, ramified microglia of adult retina.

publication date

  • December 1, 1996