Complement expression in retinal pigment epithelial cells is modulated by activated macrophages.
Complement activation is involved in a variety of retinal diseases. We have shown previously that a number of complement components and regulators can be produced locally in the eye, and that retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells are the major source of complement expression at the retina-choroidal interface. The expression of complement components by RPE cells is regulated by inflammatory cytokines. Under aging or inflammatory conditions, microglia and macrophages accumulate in the subretinal space, where they are in close contact with RPE cells. In this study, we investigated the effect of activated macrophages on complement expression by RPE cells. Mouse RPE cells were treated with the supernatants from un-activated bone marrow-derived macrophages (BM-DMs), the classically activated BM-DMs (M1) and different types of the alternatively activated BM-DMs (M2a by IL-4, M2b by immune complex and lipopolysaccharide (LPS), M2c by IL-10). The expression of inflammatory cytokines and complement genes by RPE cells were determined by real-time RT-PCR. The protein expression of CFB, C3, C1INH, and C1r was examined by Western blot. Our results show that un-stimulated RPE cells express a variety of complement-related genes, and that the expression levels of complement regulators, including C1r, factor H (CFH), DAF1, CD59, C1INH, Crry, and C4BP genes are significantly higher than those of complement component genes (C2, C4, CFB, C3, and C5). Macrophage supernatants increased inflammatory cytokine (IL-1?, IL-6, iNOS), chemokine (CCL2) and complement expression in RPE cells. The supernatants from M0, M2a and M2c macrophages mildly up-regulated (2-3.5-fold) CFB, CFH and C3 gene expression in RPE cells, whereas the supernatants from M1 and M2b macrophages massively increased (10-30-fold) CFB and C3 gene expression in RPE cells. The expression of other genes, including C1r, C2, C4, CFH, Masp1, C1INH, and C4BP in RPE cells was also increased by the supernatants of M1 and M2b macrophages; however, the increment levels were significantly lower than CFB and C3 genes. M1 and M2b macrophage supernatants enhanced CFB (Bb fragment) protein expression and C3 secretion by RPE cells. M1 macrophages may affect complement expression in RPE cells through the STAT1 pathway. Our results suggest that under inflammatory conditions, activated macrophages could promote the alternative pathway of complement activation in the retina via induction of RPE cell CFB and C3 expression.