Microglial WNT5A supports dendritic spines maturation and neuronal firing

Hana Yeh, Maya E. Woodbury, Kaitlin L. Ingraham Dixie, Tsuneya Ikezu, Seiko Ikezu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is increasing evidence showing that microglia play a critical role in mediating synapse formation and spine growth, although the molecular mechanism remains elusive. Here, we demonstrate that the secreted morphogen WNT family member 5A (WNT5A) is the most abundant WNT expressed in microglia and that it promotes neuronal maturation. Co-culture of microglia with Thy1-YFP+ differentiated neurons significantly increased neuronal spine density and reduced dendritic spine turnover rate, which was diminished by silencing microglial Wnt5a in vitro. Co-cultured microglia increased post-synaptic marker PSD95 and synaptic density as determined by the co-localization of PSD95 with pre-synaptic marker VGLUT2 in vitro. The silencing of Wnt5a expression in microglia partially reduced both PSD95 and synaptic densities. Co-culture of differentiated neurons with microglia significantly enhanced neuronal firing rate as measured by multiple electrode array, which was significantly reduced by silencing microglial Wnt5a at 23 days differentiation in vitro. These findings demonstrate that microglia can mediate spine maturation and regulate neuronal excitability via WNT5A secretion indicating possible pathological roles of dysfunctional microglia in developmental disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)403-413
Number of pages11
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
StatePublished - Jan 2023


  • Microglia
  • Neural development
  • Synaptic transmission
  • WNT
  • WNT5A

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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