Microglia, the brain’s resident immune cells, play a key role in brain development, learning and memory, as well as in the behavioural adaptation to various environmental challenges (like stress, inadequate nutrition, and viral infections), which have been linked to the development of depression, schizophrenia, and autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).
‘Dark microglia’ is a newly described microglia phenotype that is rarely present under steady state conditions. Rather, dark microglia become abundant in development, chronic stress, aging, and neurodegeneration, where they play a major role in the remodelling of neuronal circuits, especially at synapses.
This PhD project will investigate the role and function of microglia and dark microglia in normal development and following experimental maternal immune activation (MIA) in wild type and genetically modified laboratory animals with dysfunctional dark microglia.
Combining disease modelling, behavioural and histopathological analyses, with cellular phenotyping and spatial proteomics, this project aims at providing new molecular insights into the function of microglia in development, which will help generating new strategies to target innate immune function in neurodevelopmental disorders. Website