Background: Gliomas are the most frequent primary brain tumours in adults with two main histological subtypes: astrocytoma and oligodendroglioma. Translocator protein (TSPO) is a pro-inflammatory molecule over-expressed predominantly in activated microglia under pathological conditions. In astrocytoma samples, TSPO has also been found to be up-regulated and correlated with the malignancy of the tumours. [11C]-(R)PK11195 is a selective radioligand for the TSPO widely applied in clinical PET studies. We used [11C]-(R)PK11195 PET to investigate in vivo cerebral TSPO expression and microglial activation in patients with gliomas of different histological subtypes and grades.Methods: 24 glioma patients and 10 healthy volunteers underwent volumetric MRI and dynamic [11C]-(R)PK11195 PET scans. Tissue time-activity curves (TACs) were extracted from tumour regions and normal grey and white matter of the brains. Parametric maps of binding potential (BPND) were generated with the simplified reference tissue model. Co-registered MRI/PET was used to guide tumour biopsies. Tumour tissue was quantitatively assessed for TSPO expression and microglial infiltration by immunohistochemistry. Results: Three types of tumour TAC were observed in gliomas (grey matter-like kinetics, white matter-like kinetics and mixed kinetics), which differed between low-grade astrocytomas and low-grade oligodendrogliomas but were independent of the tumour grade. [11C]-(R)PK11195 BPND also differed between the two subtypes of low-grade gliomas, and low-grade gliomas demonstrated lower BPND than high-grade gliomas. 4 cases of high-grade glioma with minor or no contrast enhancement on MRI showed pronounced [11C]-(R)PK11195 binding. Immunohistochemistry confirmed that expression of TSPO correlated with [11C]-(R)PK11195 BPND of the tumour. It was related mainly to expression by neoplastic cells while the contribution from tumour-infiltrating microglia was minimal. When compared with control subjects, increased [11C]-(R)PK11195 BPND was found in patients' normal appearing cerebral structures, being more prominent in the tumour-bearing than the tumour-free hemisphere. This extra-tumoral [11C]-(R)PK11195 binding was correlated with the duration of epileptic seizures, the symptom shared by the majority of our patients.Conclusions: Gliomas show differences in [11C]-(R)PK11195 kinetics and binding that are related to histological subtype and grade. Neoplastic cells rather than activated microglia are the main cellular sources expressing TSPO and determine the [11C]-(R)PK11195 binding within the tumours. [11C]-(R)PK11195 PET has the potential to detect malignant transformation of non-enhancing gliomas and facilitate the targeting of more aggressive areas in tumour biopsy. The high extra-tumoral [11C]-(R)PK11195 binding indicates widespread microglial activation in otherwise normal appearing cerebral structures of glioma patients. It is associated with epilepsy and could open up novel therapeutic perspectives for seizure control in this patient population.