by Prajitha Thampi, Haripriya Vittal Rao, Sayak K. Mitter, Jun Cai, Haoyu Mao, Hong Li, Soojung Seo, Xiaoping Qi, Alfred S. Lewin, Carl Romano, Michael E. Boulton
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a major cause of blindness in the elderly, is associated with oxidative stress, lipofuscin accumulation and retinal degeneration. The aim of this study was to determine if a 5-HT1A receptor agonist can reduce lipofuscin accumulation, reduce oxidative damage and prevent retinal cell loss both in vitro and in vivo. Autophagy-derived and photoreceptor outer segment (POS)-derived lipofuscin formation was assessed using FACS analysis and confocal microscopy in cultured retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells in the presence or absence of the 5-HT1A receptor agonist, 8-OH DPAT. 8-OH DPAT treatment resulted in a dose-dependent reduction in both autophagy- and POS-derived lipofuscin compared to control. Reduction in autophagy-induced lipofuscin was sustained for 4 weeks following removal of the drug. The ability of 8-OH DPAT to reduce oxidative damage following exposure to 200 µM H2O2 was assessed. 8-OH DPAT reduced superoxide generation and increased mitochondrial superoxide dismutase (MnSOD) levels and the ratio of reduced glutathione to the oxidized form of glutathione in H2O2-treated cells compared to controls and protected against H2O2-initiated lipid peroxidation, nitrotyrosine levels and mitochondrial damage. SOD2 knockdown mice, which have an AMD-like phenotype, received daily subcutaneous injections of either saline, 0.5 or 5.0 mg/kg 8-OH DPAT and were evaluated at monthly intervals. Systemic administration of 8-OH DPAT improved the electroretinogram response in SOD2 knockdown eyes of mice compared to knockdown eyes receiving vehicle control. There was a significant increase in the ONL thickness in mice treated with 8-OH DPAT at 4 months past the time of MnSOD knockdown compared to untreated controls together with a 60% reduction in RPE lipofuscin. The data indicate that 5-HT1A agonists can reduce lipofuscin accumulation and protect the retina from oxidative damage and mitochondrial dysfunction. 5-HT1A receptor agonists may have potential as therapeutic agents in the treatment of retinal degenerative disease.