Single Eye mRNA-Seq Reveals Normalisation of the Retinal Microglial Transcriptome Following Acute Inflammation

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Background: Whether retinal microglia can maintain or restore immune homeostasis during and after inflammation is unclear. We performed single-eye mRNA-sequencing on microglia at different timepoints following a single inflammatory stimulus to characterise their transcriptome during and after resolution of endotoxin-induced uveitis (EIU).
Experimental Approach: Cx3cr1CreER:R26-tdTomato (C57BL/6) male heterozygotes were administered tamoxifen via different regimes at 4–5 weeks of age. Four weeks post-tamoxifen, mice were injected intravitreally with 10 ng lipopolysaccharide (endotoxin induced uveitis, EIU). Six-hundred retinal microglia were obtained by FACS from individual naïve retinas and at 4 h, 18 h, and 2 weeks following EIU induction. Samples were sequenced to a depth of up to 16.7 million reads using the SMART-Seq v4 Ultra Low Input RNA kit. The data was analysed using Partek software and Ingenuity Pathway Analysis. Genes were considered differentially-expressed (DEG) if the FDR step-up p-value was ≤0.05 and the fold-change was ≥±2.
Results: Flow cytometric analysis indicates that the Cx3cr1CreER:R26-tdTomato strain is both sensitive (>95% tagging) and specific (>95% specificity) for microglia when tamoxifen is administered topically to the eye for 3 days. During “early” activation, 613 DEGs were identified. In contrast, 537 DEGs were observed during peak cellular infiltrate and none at 2 weeks, compared to baseline controls (1,069 total unique DEGs). Key marker changes were validated by qPCR, flow cytometry, and fluorescence microscopy. C5AR1 was identified and validated as a robust marker of differentiating microglial subsets during an LPS response.
Conclusion: Using EIU to provide a single defined inflammatory stimulus, mRNA-Seq identified acute transcriptional changes in retinal microglia which returned to their original transcriptome after 2 weeks. Yolk-sac derived microglia are capable of restoring their homeostatic state after acute inflammation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3033
Number of pages15
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jan 2020


  • Microglia
  • Transcriptome
  • Uveitis
  • Retina
  • Resolution
  • mRNA-Seq
  • Lipopolysaccharide (LPS)
  • Heterogeneity


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