Ablation of C3 modulates macrophage reactivity in the outer retina during photo-oxidative damage

Haihan Jiao, Jan M. Provis, Riccardo Natoli, Matt Rutar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Dysregulation of the complement cascade contributes to a variety of retinal dystrophies, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The central component of complement, C3, is expressed in abundance by macrophages in the outer retina, and its ablation suppresses photoreceptor death in experimental photo-oxidative damage. Whether this also influences macrophage reactivity in this model system, however, is unknown. We investigate the effect of C3 ablation on macrophage activity and phagocytosis by outer retinal macrophages during photo-oxidative damage. Methods: Age-matched C3 knockout (KO) mice and wild-type (WT) C57/Bl6 mice were subjected to photo-oxidative damage. Measurements of the outer nuclear layer (ONL) thickness and terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL) staining were used to assess pathology and photoreceptor apoptosis, respectively. Macrophage abundance and phagocytosis were assessed with immunolabeling for pan-macrophage and phagocytic markers, in conjunction with TUNEL staining in cohorts of C3 KO and WT mice. Results: The C3 KO mice exhibited protection against photoreceptor cell death following photo-oxidative damage, which was associated with a reduction in immunoreactivity for the stress-related factor GFAP. In conjunction, there was a reduction in IBA1-positive macrophages in the outer retina compared to the WT mice and a decrease in the number of CD68-positive cells in the outer nuclear layer and the subretinal space. In addition, the engulfment of TUNEL-positive and-negative photoreceptors by macrophages was significantly lower in the C3 KO mice cohort following photo-oxidative damage compared to the WT cohort. Conclusions: The results show that the absence of C3 mitigates the phagocytosis of photoreceptors by macrophages in the outer retina, and the net impact of C3 depletion is neuroprotective in the context of photo-oxidative damage. These data improve our understanding of the impact of C3 inhibition in subretinal inflammation and inform the development of treatments for targeting complement activation in diseases such as AMD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)679-690
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular Vision
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


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