Loss of Par1b/MARK2 primes microglia during brain development and enhances their sensitivity to injury

Victoria L. Dibona, Wenxin Zhu, Mihir K. Shah, Aditi Rafalia, Hajer Ben Cheikh, David P. Crockett, Huaye Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background: Microglia, the resident immune cells of the brain, exhibit various morphologies that correlate with their functions under physiological and pathological conditions. In conditions such as aging and stress, microglia priming occurs, which leads to altered morphology and lower threshold for activation upon further insult. However, the molecular mechanisms that lead to microglia priming are unclear. Methods: To understand the role of Par1b/MARK2 in microglia, we first expressed shRNA targeting luciferase or Par1b/MARK2 in primary microglial cells and imaged the cells using fluorescent microscopy to analyze for morphological changes. A phagocytosis assay was then used to assess functional changes. We then moved in vivo and used a Par1b/MARK2 knockout mouse model to assess for changes in microglia density, morphology, and phagocytosis using immunohistochemistry, confocal imaging, and 3D image reconstruction. Next, we used two-photon in vivo imaging in live Par1b/MARK2 deficient mice to examine microglia dynamics. In addition, a controlled-cortical impact injury was performed on wild-type and Par1b/MARK2-deficient mice and microglial response was determined by confocal imaging. Finally, to help rule out non-cell autonomous effects, we analyzed apoptosis by confocal imaging, cytokine levels by multiplex ELISA, and blood-brain barrier permeability using Evans Blue assay. Results: Here, we show that loss of the cell polarity protein Par1b/MARK2 facilitates the activation of primary microglia in culture. We next found that microglia in Par1b/MARK2 deficient mice show increased density and a hypertrophic morphology. These morphological changes are accompanied with alterations in microglia functional responses including increased phagocytosis of neuronal particles early in development and decreased surveillance of the brain parenchyma, all reminiscent of a primed phenotype. Consistent with this, we found that microglia in Par1b/MARK2 deficient mice have a significantly lower threshold for activation upon injury. Conclusions: Together, our studies show that loss of Par1b/MARK2 switches microglia from a surveillant to a primed state during development, resulting in an increased neuroinflammatory response to insults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number11
JournalJournal of Neuroinflammation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 17 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience
  • Immunology
  • Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


  • Injury
  • MARK2
  • Microglia
  • Par1b
  • Priming


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