The microglial component of amyotrophic lateral sclerosisMore about Open Access at the Crick
Microglia are the primary immune cells of the CNS, carrying out key homeostatic roles and undergoing context-dependent and temporally regulated changes in response to injury and neurodegenerative diseases. Microglia have been implicated in playing a role in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a neurodegenerative disease characterized by extensive motor neuron loss leading to paralysis and premature death. However, as the pathomechansims of ALS are increasingly recognized to involve a multitude of different cell types, it has been difficult to delineate the specific contribution of microglia to disease. Here, we review the literature of microglial involvement in ALS and discuss the evidence for the neurotoxic and neuroprotective pathways that have been attributed to microglia in this disease. We also discuss accumulating evidence for spatiotemporal regulation of microglial activation in this context. A deeper understanding of the role of microglia in the 'cellular phase' of ALS is crucial in the development of mechanistically rationalized therapies.