Neuropilin-1 mediates myeloid cell chemoattraction and influences retinal neuroimmune crosstalk

J Clin Invest. 2014 Nov;124(11):4807-22. doi: 10.1172/JCI76492. Epub 2014 Oct 1.


Immunological activity in the CNS is largely dependent on an innate immune response and is heightened in diseases, such as diabetic retinopathy, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and Alzheimer's disease. The molecular dynamics governing immune cell recruitment to sites of injury and disease in the CNS during sterile inflammation remain poorly defined. Here, we identified a subset of mononuclear phagocytes (MPs) that responds to local chemotactic cues that are conserved among central neurons, vessels, and immune cells. Patients suffering from late-stage proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) had elevated vitreous semaphorin 3A (SEMA3A). Using a murine model, we found that SEMA3A acts as a potent attractant for neuropilin-1-positive (NRP-1-positive) MPs. These proangiogenic MPs were selectively recruited to sites of pathological neovascularization in response to locally produced SEMA3A as well as VEGF. NRP-1-positive MPs were essential for disease progression, as NRP-1-deficient MPs failed to enter the retina in a murine model of oxygen-induced retinopathy (OIR), a proxy for PDR. OIR mice with NRP-1-deficient MPs exhibited decreased vascular degeneration and diminished pathological preretinal neovascularization. Intravitreal administration of a NRP-1-derived trap effectively mimicked the therapeutic benefits observed in mice lacking NRP-1-expressing MPs. Our findings indicate that NRP-1 is an obligate receptor for MP chemotaxis, bridging neural ischemia to an innate immune response in neovascular retinal disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Animals
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chemotaxis*
  • Choroid / immunology
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / immunology
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Middle Aged
  • Mononuclear Phagocyte System / immunology
  • Myeloid Cells / physiology*
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic
  • Neuroimmunomodulation
  • Neuropilin-1 / physiology*
  • Semaphorin-3A / metabolism
  • Tissue Culture Techniques


  • SEMA3A protein, human
  • Semaphorin-3A
  • Neuropilin-1