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Neurological Disorders - Ophthalmology - Physiology

Role of Fractalkine/CX3CR1 Interaction in Light-Induced Photoreceptor Degeneration through Regulating Retinal Microglial Activation and Migration
Published: Thursday, April 19, 2012
Author: Meng Zhang et al.

by Meng Zhang, Gezhi Xu, Wei Liu, Yingqin Ni, Wenting Zhou


Excessive exposure to light enhances the progression and severity of some human retinal degenerative diseases. While retinal microglia are likely to be important in neuron damage associated with these diseases, the relationship between photoreceptor damage and microglial activation remains poorly understood. Some recent studies have indicated that the chemokine fractalkine is involved in the pathogenesis of many neurodegenerative diseases. The present study was performed to investigate the cross-talk between injured photoreceptors and activated retinal microglia, focusing on the role of fractalkine and its receptor CX3CR1 in light-induced photoreceptor degeneration.

Methodology/Principal Findings

Both in vivo and in vitro experiments were involved in the research. In vivo, Sprague–Dawley rats were exposed to blue light for 24 hours. In vitro, the co-culture of primary retinal microglia and a photoreceptor cell line (661W cell) was exposed to blue light for five hours. Some cultures were pretreated by the addition of anti-CX3CR1 neutralizing antibody or recombinant fractalkine. Expression of fractalkine/CX3CR1 and inflammatory cytokines was detected by immunofluorescence, real-time PCR, Western immunoblot analysis, and ELISA assay. TUNEL method was used to detect cell apoptosis. In addition, chemotaxis assay was performed to evaluate the impact of soluble fractalkine on microglial migration. Our results showed that the expression of fractalkine that was significantly upregulated after exposure to light, located mainly at the photoreceptors. The extent of photoreceptor degeneration and microglial migration paralleled the increased level of fractalkine/CX3CR1. Compared with the control, the expression of inflammatory cytokines was significantly downregulated in the anti-CX3CR1 neutralizing antibody-treated group, and the number of photoreceptors was also well preserved. The addition of recombinant full-length fractalkine or soluble fractalkine resulted in fewer TUNEL-positive photoreceptors and an increased number of migratory microglia respectively.


These findings demonstrate that fractalkine/CX3CR1 interaction may play an important role in the photoreceptor-microglia cross-talk in light-induced photoreceptor degeneration.