An update on the rod microglia variant in experimental and clinical brain injury and disease

Katherine R. Giordano, Charlotte R. Denman, Phoebe S. Dubisch, Murtaza Akhter, Jonathan Lifshitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Contemporary microglia morphologies include ramified, activated and amoeboid, with the morphology of microglia considered highly coupled to the cellular function. Rod microglia are an additional activated microglia variant observed in the ageing, injured and diseased brain. Rod microglia were reported frequently in the early 1900s by neuropathologists in post-mortem cases of general paresis, Alzheimer's disease and encephalitis, and then remained largely ignored for almost 100 years. Recent reports have renewed interest in rod microglia, most notably after experimental traumatic brain injury. Rod microglia are formed by the narrowing of the soma and retraction of planar processes, which results in the appearance of an elongated, rod-shaped cell. Rod microglia are most commonly observed in the cortex, aligned perpendicular to the dural surface and adjacent to neuronal processes; in the hippocampus, they are aligned perpendicular to hippocampal layers. Furthermore, rod microglia form trains with one another, apical end to basal end. By replicating the process of sketching microscopic observation, rod microglia are re-defined by circumnutation around the long axis. In this update, we summarize the rod microglia variant in clinical and experimental literature and advocate for investigation into mechanisms of rod microglia origin and function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberfcaa227
JournalBrain Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Neurology


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