Genetic tools to target microglia specifically and efficiently from the early stages of embryonic development are lacking. We generated a constitutive Cre line controlled by the microglia signature gene Crybb1 that produced nearly complete recombination in embryonic brain macrophages (microglia and border-associated macrophages [BAMs]) by the perinatal period, with limited recombination in peripheral myeloid cells. Using this tool in combination with Flt3-Cre lineage tracer, single-cell RNA-sequencing analysis, and confocal imaging, we resolved embryonic-derived versus monocyte-derived BAMs in the mouse cortex. Deletion of the transcription factor SMAD4 in microglia and embryonic-derived BAMs using Crybb1-Cre caused a developmental arrest of microglia, which instead acquired a BAM specification signature. By contrast, the development of genuine BAMs remained unaffected. Our results reveal that SMAD4 drives a transcriptional and epigenetic program that is indispensable for the commitment of brain macrophages to the microglia fate and highlight Crybb1-Cre as a tool for targeting embryonic brain macrophages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1027-1045.e8
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 9 2023


  • BAMs
  • SMAD4
  • fate-mapping
  • macrophages ontogeny
  • microglia


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