Rapid light-induced activation of retinal microglia in mice lacking Arrestin-1

Emily S. Levine, Azhar Zam, Pengfei Zhang, Alina Pechko, Xinlei Wang, Paul FitzGerald, Edward N. Pugh, Robert J. Zawadzki, Marie E. Burns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Microglia dynamically prune synaptic contacts during development, and digest waste that accumulates in degeneration and aging. In many neurodegenerative diseases, microglial activation and phagocytosis gradually increase over months or years, with poorly defined initial triggering events. Here, we describe rapid retinal microglial activation in response to physiological light levels in a mouse model of photoreceptor degeneration that arises from defective rhodopsin deactivation and prolonged signaling. Activation, migration and proliferation of microglia proceeded along a well-defined time course apparent within 12. h of light onset. Retinal imaging in vivo with optical coherence tomography revealed dramatic increases in light-scattering from photoreceptors prior to the outer nuclear layer thinning classically used as a measure of retinal neurodegeneration. This model is valuable for mechanistic studies of microglial activation in a well-defined and optically accessible neural circuit, and for the development of novel methods for detecting early signs of pending neurodegeneration in vivo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-79
Number of pages9
JournalVision Research
StatePublished - 2014


  • Microglia
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Photoreceptors
  • Phototransduction
  • Retina

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems


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