After retinal injury in mice, infiltrating monocyte-derived macrophages preserve retinal ganglion cells and promote retinal progenitor cell renewal.
The death of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) is a hallmark of many retinal neuropathies. Neuroprotection, axonal regeneration, and cell renewal are vital for the integrity of the visual system after insult but are scarce in the adult mammalian retina. We hypothesized that monocyte-derived macrophages, known to promote healing in peripheral tissues, are required after an insult to the visual system, where their role has been largely overlooked. We found that after glutamate eye intoxication, monocyte-derived macrophages infiltrated the damaged retina of mice. Inhibition of this infiltration resulted in reduced survival of RGCs and diminished numbers of proliferating retinal progenitor cells (RPCs) in the ciliary body. Enhancement of the circulating monocyte pool led to increased RGC survival and RPC renewal. The infiltrating monocyte-derived macrophages skewed the milieu of the injured retina toward an antiinflammatory and neuroprotective one and down-regulated accumulation of other immune cells, thereby resolving local inflammation. The beneficial effect on RGC survival depended on expression of interleukin 10 and major histocompatibility complex class II molecules by monocyte-derived macrophages. Thus, we attribute to infiltrating monocyte-derived macrophages a novel role in neuroprotection and progenitor cell renewal in the injured retina, with far-reaching potential implications to retinal neuropathies and other neurodegenerative disorders.