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J Neuroinflammation. 2019 Jun 6;16(1):118. doi: 10.1186/s12974-019-1505-5.

Reactive microglia and IL1β/IL-1R1-signaling mediate neuroprotection in excitotoxin-damaged mouse retina.

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Department of Biological Structure, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA.
Department of Neuroscience, College of Medicine, The Ohio State University, 3020 Graves Hall, 333 W. 10th Ave, Columbus, OH, 43210-1239, USA.
Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research, College of Medicine, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA.
Department of Pathology and Immunology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO, USA.
Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA.
Division of Biosciences, College of Dentistry, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA.
Department of Neuroscience, College of Medicine, The Ohio State University, 3020 Graves Hall, 333 W. 10th Ave, Columbus, OH, 43210-1239, USA.



Microglia and inflammation have context-specific impacts upon neuronal survival in different models of central nervous system (CNS) disease. Herein, we investigate how inflammatory mediators, including microglia, interleukin 1 beta (IL1β), and signaling through interleukin 1 receptor type 1 (IL-1R1), influence the survival of retinal neurons in response to excitotoxic damage.


Excitotoxic retinal damage was induced via intraocular injections of NMDA. Microglial phenotype and neuronal survival were assessed by immunohistochemistry. Single-cell RNA sequencing was performed to obtain transcriptomic profiles. Microglia were ablated by using clodronate liposome or PLX5622. Retinas were treated with IL1β prior to NMDA damage and cell death was assessed in wild type, IL-1R1 null mice, and mice expressing IL-1R1 only in astrocytes.


NMDA-induced damage included neuronal cell death, microglial reactivity, upregulation of pro-inflammatory cytokines, and genes associated with IL1β-signaling in different types of retinal neurons and glia. Expression of the IL1β receptor, IL-1R1, was evident in astrocytes, endothelial cells, some Müller glia, and OFF bipolar cells. Ablation of microglia with clodronate liposomes or Csf1r antagonist (PLX5622) resulted in elevated cell death and diminished neuronal survival in excitotoxin-damaged retinas. Exogenous IL1β stimulated the proliferation and reactivity of microglia in the absence of damage, reduced numbers of dying cells in damaged retinas, and increased neuronal survival following an insult. IL1β failed to provide neuroprotection in the IL-1R1-null retina, but IL1β-mediated neuroprotection was rescued when expression of IL-1R1 was restored in astrocytes.


We conclude that reactive microglia provide protection to retinal neurons, since the absence of microglia is detrimental to survival. We propose that, at least in part, the survival-influencing effects of microglia may be mediated by IL1β, IL-1R1, and interactions of microglia and other macroglia.


IL-1R1; IL1β; Microglia; Retinal neuroprotection

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