bioRxiv. 2023 Sep 29:2023.09.27.559733. doi: 10.1101/2023.09.27.559733. Preprint.
Unchecked, chronic inflammation is a constitutive component of age-related diseases, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Here we identified interleukin-1 receptor-associated kinase (IRAK)-M as a key immunoregulator in retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) that declines with age. Rare genetic variants of IRAK-M increased the likelihood of AMD. IRAK-M expression in RPE declined with age or oxidative stress and was further reduced in AMD. IRAK-M-deficient mice exhibited increased incidence of outer retinal degeneration at earlier ages, which was further exacerbated by oxidative stressors. The absence of IRAK-M disrupted RPE cell homeostasis, including compromised mitochondrial function, cellular senescence, and aberrant cytokine production. IRAK-M overexpression protected RPE cells against oxidative or immune stressors. Subretinal delivery of AAV-expressing IRAK-M rescued light-induced outer retinal degeneration in wild-type mice and attenuated age-related spontaneous retinal degeneration in IRAK-M-deficient mice. Our data support that replenishment of IRAK-M expression may redress dysregulated pro-inflammatory processes in AMD, thereby treating degeneration.