Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a degenerative disorder that is characterized by loss of motor neurons and shows clinical, pathological, and genetic overlap with frontotemporal dementia (FTD). Activated microglia are a universal feature of ALS/FTD pathology; however, their role in disease pathogenesis remains incompletely understood. The recent discovery that ORF 72 on chromosome 9 (C9orf72), the gene most commonly mutated in ALS/FTD, has an important role in myeloid cells opened the possibility that altered microglial function plays an active role in disease. This Review highlights the contribution of microglia to ALS/FTD pathogenesis, discusses the connection between autoimmunity and ALS/FTD, and explores the possibility that C9orf72 and other ALS/FTD genes may have a “dual effect” on both neuronal and myeloid cell function that could explain a shared propensity for altered systemic immunity and neurodegeneration.
Deepti Lall, Robert H. Baloh