A review of the role of the intestinal microbiota in age-related macular degeneration

Phoebe Lin, Scott M. McClintic, Urooba Nadeem, Dimitra Skondra

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Blindness from age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an escalating problem, yet AMD pathogenesis is incompletely understood and treatments are limited. The intestinal microbiota is highly influential in ocular and extraocular diseases with inflammatory components, such as AMD. This article reviews data supporting the role of the intestinal microbiota in AMD pathogenesis. Multiple groups have found an intestinal dysbiosis in advanced AMD. There is growing evidence that environmental factors associated with AMD progression potentially work through the intestinal microbiota. A high-fat diet in apo-E-/-mice exacerbated wet and dry AMD features, presumably through changes in the intestinal microbiome, though other independent mechanisms related to lipid metabolism are also likely at play. AREDS supplementation reversed some adverse intestinal microbial changes in AMD patients. Part of the mechanism of intestinal microbial effects on retinal disease progression is via microbiota-induced microglial activation. The microbiota are at the intersection of genetics and AMD. Higher genetic risk was associated with lower intestinal bacterial diversity in AMD. Microbiota-induced metabolite production and gene expression occur in pathways important in AMD pathogenesis. These studies suggest a crucial link between the intestinal microbiota and AMD pathogenesis, thus providing a novel potential therapeutic target. Thus, the need for large longitudinal studies in patients and germ-free or gnotobiotic animal models has never been more pressing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2072
JournalJournal of Clinical Medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 2 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Age-related macular degeneration
  • Complement
  • Diet
  • Intestinal microbiota
  • Microbiome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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