Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Cell Biology and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Differentiation of mouse bone marrow derived stem cells toward microglia-like cells

Arnd Hinze and Alexandra Stolzing*

Author Affiliations

Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology (IZI), Perlickstrasse 1, 04103, Leipzig, Germany

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Cell Biology 2011, 12:35  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-12-35

Published: 19 August 2011



Microglia, the macrophages of the brain, have been implicated in the causes of neurodegenerative diseases and display a loss of function during aging. Throughout life, microglia are replenished by limited proliferation of resident microglial cells. Replenishment by bone marrow-derived progenitor cells is still under debate. In this context, we investigated the differentiation of mouse microglia from bone marrow (BM) stem cells. Furthermore, we looked at the effects of FMS-like tyrosine kinase 3 ligand (Flt3L), astrocyte-conditioned medium (ACM) and GM-CSF on the differentiation to microglia-like cells.


We assessed in vitro-derived microglia differentiation by marker expression (CD11b/CD45, F4/80), but also for the first time for functional performance (phagocytosis, oxidative burst) and in situ migration into living brain tissue. Integration, survival and migration were assessed in organotypic brain slices.


The cells differentiated from mouse BM show function, markers and morphology of primary microglia and migrate into living brain tissue. Flt3L displays a negative effect on differentiation while GM-CSF enhances differentiation.


We conclude that in vitro-derived microglia are the phenotypic and functional equivalents to primary microglia and could be used in cell therapy.

bone marrow stem cells; microglia; Flt3L; GM-CSF; neurodegeneration; differentiation