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Artemisinin Protects Retinal Neuronal Cells against Oxidative Stress and Restores Rat Retinal Physiological Function from Light Exposed Damage

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journal contribution
posted on 27.04.2017, 00:00 by Fengxia Yan, Haitao Wang, Yang Gao, Jiangping Xu, Wenhua Zheng
Oxidative stress plays a key role in the pathogenesis of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of severe visual loss and blindness in the aging population which lacks any effective treatments currently. In this study, artemisinin, a well-known antimalarial drug was found to suppress hydrogen peroxide (H2O2)-induced cell death in retinal neuronal RGC-5 cells. Artemisinin, in the therapeutically relevant dosage, concentration-dependently attenuated the accumulation of intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS), increased mitochondrial membrane potential and decreased cell apoptosis in RGC-5 cells induced by H2O2. Western blot analysis showed that artemisinin upregulated the phosphorylation of p38 and extracellular signal-regulated kinases1/2 (ERK1/2) and reversed the inhibitory effect of H2O2 on the phosphorylation of these two kinases. Moreover, protective effect of artemisinin was blocked by the p38 kinase inhibitor PD169316 or ERK1/2 kinase pathway inhibitor PD98059, respectively. In contrast, c-Jun N-terminal kinase inhibitor and rapamycin had no effect in the protective effect of artemisinin. Taken together, these results demonstrated that artemisinin promoted the survival of RGC-5 cells from H2O2 toxicity via the activation of the p38 and ERK1/2 pathways. Interestingly, intravitreous injection of artimisinin, concentration-dependently reversed light exposed-damage (a dry AMD animal model) of rat retinal physiological function detected by flash electroretinogram. These results indicate that artemisinin can protect retinal neuronal functions from H2O2-induced damage in vitro and in vivo and suggest the potential application of artemisinin as a new drug in the treatment of retinal disorders like AMD.

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