Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the principal cause of permanent blindness among elderly individuals worldwide. Chronic inflammation in the subretinal space is associated with a progression of exudative AMD. Progranulin (PGRN) is a growth factor secreted from myeloid cells and plays an important role in controlling the lysosomal function. A deficiency of PGRN leads to inflammation of the neurons in the central nervous system. The purpose of this study was to investigate the role played by PGRN in the size of the choroidal neovascularization (CNV) in laser-induced CNV mice.
CNVs were induced in C57BL/6J mice by laser photocoagulation of the retina. The expression of PGRN and the accumulation of Iba-1+ cells around the sites of the CNVs were determined. Grn−/−, Grn+/-, and Grn+/+ mice with laser-induced CNVs were also studied. To evaluate the effect of macrophages on the inflammation, we used a macrophage cell line (RAW264.7) in which the expression of PGRN was knocked down by RNA interference. These cells were incubated under hypoxic conditions (1% O2) for 12 hours.
Iba-1+ myeloid cells migrated and accumulated in the photocoagulation-induced CNV areas, and the CNV lesions secreted high levels of PGRN in Grn+/+ mice. The size of the CNVs was larger in Grn-/- mice than in Grn+/- and Grn+/+ mice. In Grn-/- mice, the number of ocular-infiltrating Iba-1+ cells around the CNV was higher, and these cells produced more VEGF-A than the cells in the Grn+/+ mice. PGRN-silencing of RAW264.7 cells led to an abnormal activation of the cells. In addition, hypoxic conditions promoted the production of pro-angiogenic and pro-inflammatory cytokines from PGRN-silenced macrophages. Interestingly, the expression level of lysosome-associated proteins and the number of activated lysosomes increased in siGrn-treated macrophages.
These findings indicate that PGRN deficiency in Iba-1+ cells activates the lysosomal function that then leads to abnormal inflammation. The aberrant activation of PGRN deficient Iba-1+ myeloid cells might promote the progression of the CNV.