Attention is increasingly being given to microglia-related inflammation in neovascular diseases, such as diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular disease. Evidence shows that activated microglia contribute to disruption of the blood-retinal barrier, however, the mechanism is unclear. In this study, we aimed to clarify whether and how microglia affect the function of retinal microvascular endothelial cells (RMECs).
We activated microglia by Lipopolysaccharides (LPS) stimulation. After co-culturing static or activated microglia with RMECs using the Transwell system, we evaluated the function of RMECs. Vascular endothelial growth factor-A (VEGF-A) and platelet-derived growth factor-BB (PDGF-BB) levels in the supernatant from the lower chamber were evaluated by ELISA. Angiogenesis, migration, and proliferation of RMECs were assessed by tube formation, wound healing, and WST-1 assays. The expression levels of tight junction proteins (ZO-1 and occludin) and endothelial markers (CD31 and CD34) were examined by Western blot analysis.
We successfully established an LPS-activated microglia model and co-culture system of static or activated microglia with RMECs. In the co-culture system, we showed that microglia, especially activated microglia stimulated VEGF-A and PDGF-BB expression, enhanced angiogenesis, migration, proliferation, and permeability, and altered the phenotype of co-cultured RMECs.
Microglia, especially activated microglia, play important roles in angiogenesis and maintenance of vascular function hemostasis in the retinal microvasculature. The mechanism needs further investigation and clarification.