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

Levi Todd, Isabella Palazzo, Lilianna Suarez, Xiaoyu Liu, Leo Volkov, Thanh V. Hoang, Warren A. Campbell, Seth Blackshaw, Ning Quan, Andy J. Fischer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Background: 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. Methods: 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. Results: 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. Conclusions: 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number118
JournalJournal of Neuroinflammation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 6 2019


  • IL-1R1
  • IL1β
  • Microglia
  • Retinal neuroprotection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Immunology
  • Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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