Loss of homeostatic microglial phenotype in CSF1R-related Leukoencephalopathy

Liam Kempthorne, Hyejin Yoon, Charlotte Madore, Scott Smith, Zbigniew K. Wszolek, Rosa Rademakers, Jungsu Kim, Oleg Butovsky, Dennis W. Dickson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Microglia are resident macrophages of the central nervous system, and their unique molecular signature is dependent upon CSF-1 signaling. Previous studies have demonstrated the importance of CSF-1R in survival and development of microglia in animal models, but the findings are of uncertain relevance to understanding the influence of CSF-1R on microglia in humans. Hereditary diffuse leukoencephalopathy with spheroids (HDLS) [also known as adult onset leukoencephalopathy with spheroids and pigmented glia (ALSP)] is a neurodegenerative disorder primarily affecting cerebral white matter, most often caused by mutations of CSF1R. Therefore, we hypothesized that the molecular profile of microglia may be affected in HDLS. Semi-quantitative immunohistochemistry and quantitative transcriptomic profiling revealed reduced expression of IBA-1 and P2RY12 in both white and gray matter microglia of HDLS. In contrast, there was increased expression of CD68 and CD163 in microglia in affected white matter. In addition, expression of selective and specific microglial markers, including P2RY12, CX3CR1 and CSF-1R, were reduced in affected white matter. These results suggest that microglia in white matter in HDLS lose their homeostatic phenotype. Supported by gene ontology analysis, it is likely that an inflammatory phenotype is a key pathogenic feature of microglia in vulnerable brain regions of HDLS. Our findings suggest a potential mechanism of disease pathogenesis by linking aberrant CSF-1 signaling to altered microglial phenotype. They also support the idea that HDLS may be a primary microgliopathy. We observed increased expression of CSF-2 in gray matter compared to affected white matter, which may contribute to selective vulnerability of white matter in HDLS. Our findings suggest that methods that restore the homeostatic phenotype of microglia might be considered treatment approaches in HDLS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number72
JournalActa Neuropathologica Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 19 2020


  • Adult leukoencephalopathy with spheroids and pigmented glia (ALSP)
  • CSF-1
  • CSF-1R
  • CSF-1R-related leukoencephalopathy
  • Hereditary diffuse leukoencephalopathy with spheroids (HDLS)
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Microglia
  • RNA expression profiling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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