Apolipoprotein E4 impairs the response of neurodegenerative retinal microglia and prevents neuronal loss in glaucoma

Immunity. 2022 Sep 13;55(9):1627-1644.e7. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2022.07.014. Epub 2022 Aug 16.


The apolipoprotein E4 (APOE4) allele is associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer disease and a decreased risk of glaucoma, but the underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood. Here, we found that in two mouse glaucoma models, microglia transitioned to a neurodegenerative phenotype characterized by upregulation of Apoe and Lgals3 (Galectin-3), which were also upregulated in human glaucomatous retinas. Mice with targeted deletion of Apoe in microglia or carrying the human APOE4 allele were protected from retinal ganglion cell (RGC) loss, despite elevated intraocular pressure (IOP). Similarly to Apoe-/- retinal microglia, APOE4-expressing microglia did not upregulate neurodegeneration-associated genes, including Lgals3, following IOP elevation. Genetic and pharmacologic targeting of Galectin-3 ameliorated RGC degeneration, and Galectin-3 expression was attenuated in human APOE4 glaucoma samples. These results demonstrate that impaired activation of APOE4 microglia is protective in glaucoma and that the APOE-Galectin-3 signaling can be targeted to treat this blinding disease.

Keywords: APOE4; Alzheimer disease; Galectin-3; Lgals3; glaucoma; microglia; neurodegeneration; neuroprotection; retina.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apolipoprotein E4* / genetics
  • Apolipoprotein E4* / metabolism
  • Apolipoprotein E4* / therapeutic use
  • Apolipoproteins E / genetics
  • Apolipoproteins E / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Galectin 3 / genetics
  • Galectin 3 / metabolism
  • Galectin 3 / therapeutic use
  • Glaucoma* / drug therapy
  • Glaucoma* / genetics
  • Glaucoma* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Microglia / metabolism


  • Apolipoprotein E4
  • Apolipoproteins E
  • Galectin 3