Research

The long-term goal of my lab is to understand microglia-neuron communication in the brain. Microglia are the principal immune response cells in the central nervous system. Resting microglia constantly survey the microenvironment in the normal brain. Upon brain dysfunction, microglia are activated and exert detrimental or beneficial effects on the surrounding neurons. In neuronal circuits, microglia are crucial to synaptic pruning and plasticity, yet no direct evidence has been identified. Microglia are strongly activated in pathological conditions such as pain, stroke, and neurodegeneration. However, the molecular mechanisms for microglial activation and function in brain diseases are still controversial.

Questions:
  1. What signals mediate microglia-neuron communication?
  2. How do microglia integrate into neuronal circuits?
  3. What are the molecular mechanisms and functional consequences of microglia activation in brain diseases?
Approaches:

Combination of electrophysiology and two photon deep-brain imaging of microglia/neuron activities ex vivo (brain slices) and in vivo (live mice).

Ongoing Projects:

1. Microglial ion channel electrophysiology

2. Microglial ion channel/receptor and chemotaxis

3. Electrical signals between microglia and neurons

4. Microglial Hv1 proton channel in brain diseases