Mice homozygous for the spontaneous motor neuron degeneration mutation (mnd) show at the age of 8 months a marked impairment of the motor function and accumulation of lipofuscin granules in the cytoplasm of almost all neurons of the central nervous system.We previously reported a significant increase in GFAP protein levels in the lumbar spinal cord homogenates by western blot analysis and upregulation of TNF, a proinflammatory cytokine, in the motor neurons of lumbar spinal cord of mnd mice, already in a presymptomatic stage (4 months of age). In the present study, using immunohistochemical analysis, we performed a time course in mnd mice (1, 4 and 9 months of age) evaluating the expression and the distribution of astroglial and microglial cells and the expression of both TNF receptors, TNFR-I and TNFR-II. We observed a marked increase in astroglial and microglial cells and in TNFR-I immunoreactivity already at the 4th month. Since motor neuron dysfunction occurs in mnd mice in the absence of evident loss of spinal motor neurons, the present results indicate that the activation of microglial cells and astrocytes is independent from neuronal degeneration. The role of TNF and TNFR-I on motor neurons is still to be demonstrated.