Microglia Activation and Inflammation During the Death of Mammalian Photoreceptors

Annu Rev Vis Sci. 2020 Sep 15;6:149-169. doi: 10.1146/annurev-vision-121219-081730.


Photoreceptors are highly specialized sensory neurons with unique metabolic and physiological requirements. These requirements are partially met by Müller glia and cells of the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), which provide essential metabolites, phagocytose waste, and control the composition of the surrounding microenvironment. A third vital supporting cell type, the retinal microglia, can provide photoreceptors with neurotrophic support or exacerbate neuroinflammation and hasten neuronal cell death. Understanding the physiological requirements for photoreceptor homeostasis and the factors that drive microglia to best promote photoreceptor survival has important implications for the treatment and prevention of blinding degenerative diseases like retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration.

Keywords: degeneration; macrophage; monocyte; neuroinflammation; retina; rod.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Ependymoglial Cells / physiology
  • Humans
  • Macrophage Activation*
  • Phagocytosis
  • Photoreceptor Cells / physiology*
  • Retinal Cone Photoreceptor Cells
  • Retinal Degeneration / metabolism*
  • Retinal Pigment Epithelium / physiology
  • Signal Transduction