Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

The 18kDa Translocator Protein (TSPO) is the most commonly used tissue-specific marker of inflammation in positron emission tomography (PET) studies. It is expressed in myeloid cells such as microglia and macrophages, and in rodent myeloid cells expression increases with cellular activation. We assessed the effect of myeloid cell activation on TSPO gene expression in both primary human and rodent microglia and macrophages in vitro, and also measured TSPO radioligand binding with 3H-PBR28 in primary human macrophages. As observed previously, we found that TSPO expression increases (∼9-fold) in rodent-derived macrophages and microglia upon pro-inflammatory stimulation. However, TSPO expression does not increase with classical pro-inflammatory activation in primary human microglia (fold change 0.85 [95% CI 0.58-1.12], p = 0.47). In contrast, pro-inflammatory activation of human monocyte-derived macrophages is associated with a reduction of both TSPO gene expression (fold change 0.60 [95% CI 0.45-0.74], p = 0.02) and TSPO binding site abundance (fold change 0.61 [95% CI 0.49-0.73], p < 0.0001). These findings have important implications for understanding the biology of TSPO in activated macrophages and microglia in humans. They are also clinically relevant for the interpretation of PET studies using TSPO targeting radioligands, as they suggest changes in TSPO expression may reflect microglial and macrophage density rather than activation phenotype.

Original publication




Journal article


J cereb blood flow metab

Publication Date





2679 - 2690


Positron emission tomography, inflammation, macrophages, microglia, neurodegeneration, Acetamides, Adult, Animals, Brain, Cells, Cultured, Gene Expression, Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor, Humans, Interferon-gamma, Lipopolysaccharides, Macrophages, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Microglia, Middle Aged, Myeloid Cells, Protein Binding, Pyridines, Receptors, GABA, Species Specificity, Young Adult