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Small interfering RNA-mediated suppression of Ccl2 in Müller cells attenuates microglial recruitment and photoreceptor death following retinal degeneration

Matt Rutar12*, Riccardo Natoli13 and Jan M Provis123

Author Affiliations

1 The John Curtin School of Medical Research, College of Medicine, Biology and Environment, The Australian National University, Building 131, Garran Rd, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia

2 ARC Centre of Excellence in Vision Science, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia

3 ANU Medical School, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia

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Journal of Neuroinflammation 2012, 9:221  doi:10.1186/1742-2094-9-221

Published: 19 September 2012



The recruitment and activation of inflammatory cells is thought to exacerbate photoreceptor death in retinal degenerative conditions such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). We investigated the role of Müller cell-derived chemokine (C-C motif) ligand (Ccl)2 expression on monocyte/microglia infiltration and photoreceptor death in light-mediated retinal degeneration, using targeted small interfering (si)RNA.


Adult Sprague–Dawley rats were injected intravitreally with 1 μg of either Ccl2 siRNA or scrambled siRNA, and were then exposed to 1000 lux of light for a period of 24 hours. The mice were given an overdose of barbiturate, and the retinas harvested and evaluated for the effects of bright-light exposure. Ccl2 expression was assessed by quantitative PCR, immunohistochemistry, and in situ hybridization. Monocytes/microglia were counted on retinal cryostat sections immunolabeled with the markers ED1 and ionized calcium binding adaptor (IBA)1, and photoreceptor apoptosis was assessed using terminal dUTP nick end labeling.


Intravitreal injection of Ccl2 siRNA significantly reduced the expression of Ccl2 following light damage to 29% compared with controls. In retinas injected with Ccl2 siRNA, in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry on retinal cryostat sections showed a substantial decrease in Ccl2 within Müller cells. Cell counts showed significantly fewer ED1-positive and IBA1-positive cells in the retinal vasculature and outer nuclear layer of Ccl2 siRNA-injected retinas, compared with controls. Moreover, there was significantly less photoreceptor apoptosis in Ccl2 siRNA-injected retinas compared with controls.


Our data indicate that Ccl2 expression by Müller cells promotes the infiltration of monocytes/microglia, thereby contributing to the neuroinflammatory response and photoreceptor death following retinal injury. Modulation of exaggerated chemokine responses using siRNA may have value in reducing inflammation-mediated cell death in retinal degenerative disease such as AMD.