Neovascular retinopathies are major causes of vision loss; yet treatments to prevent the condition are inadequate. The role of regulatory T cells in neovascular retinopathy is unknown. Here we show that in retinopathy regulatory T cells are transiently increased in lymphoid organs and the retina, but decline when neovascularization is established. The decline is prevented following regulatory T cells expansion with an IL-2/anti-IL-2 mAb complex or the adoptive transfer of regulatory T cells. Further, both approaches reduce vasculopathy (vaso-obliteration, neovascularization, vascular leakage) and alter the activation of Tmem119+ retinal microglia. Our in vitro studies complement these findings, showing that retinal microglia co-cultured with regulatory T cells exhibit a reduction in co-stimulatory molecules and pro-inflammatory mediators that is attenuated by CTLA-4 blockade. Collectively, we demonstrate that regulatory T cells are recruited to the retina and, when expanded in number, repair the vasculature. Manipulation of regulatory T cell numbers is a previously unrecognized, and promising avenue for therapies to prevent blinding neovascular retinopathies.
Ian Harper (Manager), Stephen Firth (Manager), Alex Fulcher (Operator), Oleks Chernyavskiy (Operator), Margaret Rzeszutek (Other), David Potter (Manager), Volker Hilsenstein (Operator), Juan Nunez-Iglesias (Other), Stephen Cody (Manager), Irena Carmichael (Operator), Betty Kouskousis (Other), Chad Johnson (Operator), Sarah Creed (Manager) & Giulia Ballerin (Operator)Office of the Vice-Provost (Research and Research Infrastructure)