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PLoS One. 2014 Apr 8;9(4):e94313. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0094313. eCollection 2014.

VEGF-production by CCR2-dependent macrophages contributes to laser-induced choroidal neovascularization.

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Institute of Experimental Immunology, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-University, Bonn, Germany.
Department of Ophthalmology, University of Münster, Münster, Germany.


Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most prevalent cause of blindness in the elderly, and its exsudative subtype critically depends on local production of vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF). Mononuclear phagocytes, such as macrophages and microglia cells, can produce VEGF. Their precursors, for example monocytes, can be recruited to sites of inflammation by the chemokine receptor CCR2, and this has been proposed to be important in AMD. To investigate the role of macrophages and CCR2 in AMD, we studied intracellular VEGF content in a laser-induced murine model of choroidal neovascularisation. To this end, we established a technique to quantify the VEGF content in cell subsets from the laser-treated retina and choroid separately. 3 days after laser, macrophage numbers and their VEGF content were substantially elevated in the choroid. Macrophage accumulation was CCR2-dependent, indicating recruitment from the circulation. In the retina, microglia cells were the main VEGF+ phagocyte type. A greater proportion of microglia cells contained VEGF after laser, and this was CCR2-independent. On day 6, VEGF-expressing macrophage numbers had already declined, whereas numbers of VEGF+ microglia cells remained increased. Other sources of VEGF detectable by flow cytometry included in dendritic cells and endothelial cells in both retina and choroid, and Müller cells/astrocytes in the retina. However, their VEGF content was not increased after laser. When we analyzed flatmounts of laser-treated eyes, CCR2-deficient mice showed reduced neovascular areas after 2 weeks, but this difference was not evident 3 weeks after laser. In summary, CCR2-dependent influx of macrophages causes a transient VEGF increase in the choroid. However, macrophages augmented choroidal neovascularization only initially, presumably because VEGF production by CCR2-independent eye cells prevailed at later time points. These findings identify macrophages as a relevant source of VEGF in laser-induced choroidal neovascularization but suggest that the therapeutic efficacy of CCR2-inhibition might be limited.

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