Seminars in Immunopathology

, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 165-177

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Mechanisms of leukocyte migration across the blood–retina barrier

  • Isabel J. CraneAffiliated withSchool of Medicine, University of Aberdeen Institute of Medical Sciences
  • , Janet LiversidgeAffiliated withSchool of Medicine, University of Aberdeen Institute of Medical Sciences Email author 


Immune-mediated inflammation in the retina is regulated by a combination of anatomical, physiological and immuno-regulatory mechanisms, referred to as the blood–retina barrier (BRB). The BRB is thought to be part of the specialised ocular microenvironment that confers protection or “immune privilege” by deviating or suppressing destructive inflammation. The barrier between the blood circulation and the retina is maintained at two separate anatomical sites. These are the endothelial cells of the inner retinal vasculature and the retinal pigment epithelial cells on Bruch’s membrane between the fenestrated choroidal vessels and the outer retina. The structure and regulation of the tight junctions forming the physical barrier are described. For leukocyte migration across the BRB to occur, changes are needed in both the leukocytes themselves and the cells forming the barrier. We review how the blood–retina barrier is compromised in various inflammatory diseases and discuss the mechanisms controlling leukocyte subset migration into the retina in uveoretinitis in more detail. In particular, we examine the relative roles of selectins and integrins in leukocyte interactions with the vascular endothelium and the pivotal role of chemokines in selective recruitment of leukocyte subsets, triggering adhesion, diapedesis and migration of inflammatory cells into the retinal tissue.


Blood–retina barrier Retinal pigment epithelium Selectins Integrins Chemokines Tight junctions Leukocytes Lymphocytes Monocytes Inflammation Uveitis