Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of vision impairment in the ageing population, is characterized by irreversible loss of retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells and photoreceptors and can be associated with choroidal neovascularization. Mononuclear phagocytes are often present in AMD lesions, but the processes that direct myeloid cell recruitment remain unclear. Here, we identify IL-33 as a key regulator of inflammation and photoreceptor degeneration after retina stress or injury. IL-33+ Müller cells were more abundant and IL-33 cytokine was elevated in advanced AMD cases compared with age-matched controls with no AMD. In rodents, retina stress resulted in release of bioactive IL-33 that in turn increased inflammatory chemokine and cytokine expression in activated Müller cells. Deletion of ST2, the IL-33 receptor α chain, or treatment with a soluble IL-33 decoy receptor significantly reduced release of inflammatory mediators from Müller cells, inhibited accumulation of mononuclear phagocytes in the outer retina, and protected photoreceptor rods and cones after a retina insult. This study demonstrates a central role for IL-33 in regulating mononuclear phagocyte recruitment to the photoreceptor layer and positions IL-33 signaling as a potential therapeutic target in macular degenerative diseases.

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