Glycolysis links reciprocal activation of myeloid cells and endothelial cells in the retinal angiogenic niche. Sci Transl Med 2020;12(555)Abstract.
The coordination of metabolic signals among different cellular components in pathological retinal angiogenesis is poorly understood. Here, we showed that in the pathological angiogenic vascular niche, retinal myeloid cells, particularly macrophages/microglia that are spatially adjacent to endothelial cells (ECs), are highly glycolytic. We refer to these macrophages/microglia that exhibit a unique angiogenic phenotype with increased expression of both M1 and M2 markers and enhanced production of both proinflammatory and proangiogenic cytokines as pathological retinal angiogenesis-associated glycolytic macrophages/microglia (PRAGMs). The phenotype of PRAGMs was recapitulated in bone marrow-derived macrophages or retinal microglia stimulated by lactate that was produced by hypoxic retinal ECs. Knockout of 6-phosphofructo-2-kinase/fructose-2, 6-bisphosphatase (; for rodents), a glycolytic activator in myeloid cells, impaired the ability of macrophages/microglia to acquire an angiogenic phenotype, rendering them unable to promote EC proliferation and sprouting and pathological neovascularization in a mouse model of oxygen-induced proliferative retinopathy. Mechanistically, hyperglycolytic macrophages/microglia produced large amount of acetyl-coenzyme A, leading to histone acetylation and PRAGM-related gene induction, thus reprogramming macrophages/microglia into an angiogenic phenotype. These findings reveal a critical role of glycolytic metabolites as initiators of reciprocal activation of macrophages/microglia and ECs in the retinal angiogenic niche and suggest that strategies targeting the metabolic communication between these cell types may be efficacious in the treatment of pathological retinal angiogenesis.