Lytic cell death in specific microglial subsets is required for preventing atypical behavior in mice

Hsiu Chun Chuang, Eva K. Nichols, Isabella Rauch, Wei Cheng Chang, Patrick M. Lin, Rhea Misra, Maiko Kitaoka, Russell E. Vance, Kaoru Saijo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Microglial cells are known to contribute to brain development and behaviors, but the mechanisms behind such functions are not fully understood. Here, we show that mice deficient in inflammasome regulators, including caspase-1 (Casp1), NLR family pyrin domain containing 3 (Nlrp3), IL-1 receptor (Il-1r), and gasdermin D (Gsdmd), exhibit behavior abnormalities characterized by hyperactivity and low anxiety levels. Furthermore, we found that expression of Casp1 in CX3CR1+ myeloid cells, which includes microglia, is required for preventing these abnormal behaviors. Through tissue clearing and 3D imaging, we discovered that small numbers of Cx3cr1-GFP+ fetal microglial cells formed clusters and underwent lytic cell death in the primitive thalamus and striatum between embryonic day (E)12.5 and E14.5. This lytic cell death was diminished in Casp1-deficient mice. Further analysis of the microglial clusters showed the presence of Pax6+ neural progenitor cells (NPCs); thus, we hypothesized that microglial lytic cell death is important for proper neuronal development. Indeed, in-creased numbers of neurons were observed in the thalamic subset in adult Casp1/ brains. Finally, injection of drug inhibitors of NLRP3 and CASP1 into wild-type (WT) pregnant mice from E12.5 to E14.5, the period when lytic cell death was detected, was sufficient to induce atypical behaviors in offspring. Taken together, our data suggests that the inflammasome cascade in microglia is important for regulating neuronal development and normal behaviors, and that genetic or pharmacological inhibition of this pathway can induce atypical behaviors in mice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberENEURO.0342-20.2020
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Behavior
  • Cell death
  • Microglia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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