Ischemic retinopathies including diabetic retinopathy are major causes of blindness. Although neurons and Müller glia are recognized as important regulators of reparative and pathologic angiogenesis, the role of mononuclear phagocytes (MPs) - particularly microglia, the resident retinal immune cells - is unclear. Here, we found MP activation in human diabetic retinopathy, especially in neovessels from human neovascular membranes in proliferative retinopathy, including TNF-α expression. There was similar activation in the mouse oxygen-induced retinopathy (OIR) model of ischemia-induced neovascularization. Glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor (GLP-1R) agonists are in clinical use for glycemic control in diabetes and are also known to modulate microglia. Herein, we investigated the effect of a long-acting GLP-1R agonist, NLY01. Following intravitreal administration, NLY01 selectively localized to MPs in retina with OIR. NLY01 modulated MPs but not retinal endothelial cell viability, apoptosis, and tube formation in vitro. In OIR, NLY01 treatment inhibited MP infiltration and activation, including MP expression of cytokines in vivo. NLY01 significantly suppressed global induction of retinal inflammatory cytokines, promoted reparative angiogenesis, and suppressed pathologic retinal neovascularization. Collectively, these findings indicate the important role of mononuclear phagocytes in regulation of retinal vascularization in ischemia and suggest modulation of MPs as a potentially new treatment strategy for ischemic retinopathies.
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