Regulating macrophage phenotype and function by retinal pigment epithelial cells

Mei Chen, Jiawu Zhao, Heping Xu

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Purpose: We have shown previously that macrophages/microglia accumulate in the subretinal space and express CD68 and Arginase-1 in the aging eye. Subretinal macrophages are in close contact with retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells. We hypothesize that RPE cells may play an important role in regulating macrophage/microglial phenotype and function. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of RPE cells on the phenotype and function of bone marrow–derived macrophages (BM-DMs).
Methods: BM-DM from C57BL/6J mice were cultured in DMEM supplemented with 20%L929 cell supernatant for 5 days. The phenotype of BM-DMs was confirmed by flow cytometry as CD11b+F4/80+. Primary RPE cells were cultured from C57BL/6J mice and confirmed by RPE65 and cytokeratin staining. BMDMs were co-cultured with different types of RPE cells (healthy, oxidized, and apoptotic RPE) and then isolated from the co-culture system for phenotypic and functional assays.
Results: Co-culture of BM-DMs with RPE cells results in a time-dependent down-regulation of MHC-II expression and the generation of CD11b+F4/80+Ly6G+ myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC). qRT-PCR analysis showed that RPE-induced MDSCs expressed high levels of IL-6, IL-1β, and Arginase-1, but lower levels of IL-12p40 and TNF-a compared to naïve BM-DMs. The expression levels of iNOS, TGF-β and Ym1 did not differ 207 between naive BMDMs and RPE-induced MDSCs. Furthermore, functional studies showed that these cells had reduced phagocytic activity and lower ability to stimulate T cell activation and proliferation. When RPE cells were pre-treated with oxidized photoreceptor outer segments before co-culturing with BMDMs, the expression of IL-1β and IL-6 in BMDMs was increased whereas the expression of Arginase-1 was decreased. 
Conclusion: Our results suggest that healthy RPE cells can convert BMDMs into myeloid-derived suppressor cells under in vitro culture conditions, RPE-induced myeloid-derived suppressor cells are CD11b+F4/80+Ly6G+MHCIIlowIL6+IL1b+Arg-1+. The ability of RPE cells is reduced when suffering from oxidative insults.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jul 2014
EventISER ( the International Society for Eye Research) XXI Biennial meeting - California, United States
Duration: 20 Jul 201424 Jul 2014


ConferenceISER ( the International Society for Eye Research) XXI Biennial meeting
Country/TerritoryUnited States


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