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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Macrophage colony-stimulating factor and its receptor signaling augment glycated albumin-induced retinal microglial inflammation in vitro

Wei Liu1, Ge Z Xu12*, Chun H Jiang1 and Jie Tian1

Author affiliations

1 Department of Opthalmology, EENT Hospital, Eye Institute, Fudan University, Shanghai, 200031, China

2 Institute of Brain Science, Fudan University, Shanghai, 200031, China

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Citation and License

BMC Cell Biology 2011, 12:5  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-12-5

Published: 25 January 2011



Microglial activation and the proinflammatory response are controlled by a complex regulatory network. Among the various candidates, macrophage colony-stimulating factor (M-CSF) is considered an important cytokine. The up-regulation of M-CSF and its receptor CSF-1R has been reported in brain disease, as well as in diabetic complications; however, the mechanism is unclear. An elevated level of glycated albumin (GA) is a characteristic of diabetes; thus, it may be involved in monocyte/macrophage-associated diabetic complications.


The basal level of expression of M-CSF/CSF-1R was examined in retinal microglial cells in vitro. Immunofluorescence, real-time PCR, immunoprecipitation, and Western blot analyses revealed the up-regulation of CSF-1R in GA-treated microglial cells. We also detected increased expression and release of M-CSF, suggesting that the cytokine is produced by activated microglia via autocrine signaling. Using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, we found that GA affects microglial activation by stimulating the release of tumor necrosis factor-α and interleukin-1β. Furthermore, the neutralization of M-CSF or CSF-1R with antibodies suppressed the proinflammatory response. Conversely, this proinflammatory response was augmented by the administration of M-CSF.


We conclude that GA induces microglial activation via the release of proinflammatory cytokines, which may contribute to the inflammatory pathogenesis of diabetic retinopathy. The increased microglial expression of M-CSF/CSF-1R not only is a response to microglial activation in diabetic retinopathy but also augments the microglial inflammation responsible for the diabetic microenvironment.