Rod-shaped microglia morphology is associated with aging in 2 human autopsy series

Adam D. Bachstetter, Eseosa T. Ighodaro, Yasmin Hassoun, Danah Aldeiri, Janna H. Neltner, Ela Patel, Erin L. Abner, Peter T. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


A subtype of microglia is defined by the morphological appearance of the cells as rod shaped. Little is known about this intriguing cell type, as there are only a few case reports describing rod-shaped microglia in the neuropathological literature. Rod-shaped microglia were shown recently to account for a substantial proportion of the microglia cells in the hippocampus of both demented and cognitively intact aged individuals. We hypothesized that aging could be a defining feature in the occurrence of rod-shaped microglia. To test this hypothesis, 2 independent series of autopsy cases (total n = 168 cases), which covered the adult lifespan from 20 to 100+ years old, were included in the study. The presence or absence of rod-shaped microglia was scored on IBA1 immunohistochemically stained slides for the hippocampus and cortex. We found that age was one of the strongest determinants for the presence of rod-shaped microglia in the hippocampus and the cortex. We found no association with the presence of rod-shaped microglia and a self-reported history of a TBI. Alzheimer's disease–related pathology was found to influence the presence of rod-shaped microglia, but only in the parietal cortex and not in the hippocampus or temporal cortex. Future studies are warranted to determine the functional relevance of rod-shaped microglia in supporting the health of neurons in the aged brain, and the signaling processes that regulate the formation of rod-shaped microglia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)98-105
Number of pages8
JournalNeurobiology of Aging
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier Inc.


  • Aging
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Hippocampus
  • Microglia activation
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Neuroinflammation
  • Neuropathology
  • Traumatic brain injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Aging
  • General Neuroscience
  • Developmental Biology


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