P2X7 receptor antagonism: Implications in diabetic retinopathy

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Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is the most frequent complication of diabetes and one of leading causes of blindness worldwide. Early phases of DR are characterized by retinal pericyte loss mainly related to concurrent inflammatory process. Recently, an important link between P2X7 receptor (P2X7R) and inflammation has been demonstrated indicating this receptor as potential pharmacological target in DR. Here we first carried out an in silico molecular modeling study in order to characterize the allosteric pocket in P2X7R, and identify a suitable P2X7R antagonist through molecular docking. JNJ47965567 was identified as the hit compound in docking calculations, as well as for its absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion (ADME) profile. As an in vitro model of early diabetic retinopathy, human retinal pericytes were exposed to high glucose (25 mM, 48 h) that caused a significant (p < 0.05) release of IL-1β and LDH. The block of P2X7R by JNJ47965567 significantly (p < 0.05) reverted the damage elicited by high glucose, detected as IL-1β and LDH release. Overall, our findings suggest that the P2X7R represents an attractive pharmacological target to manage the early phase of diabetic retinopathy, and the compound JNJ47965567 is a good template to discover other P2X7R selective antagonists.

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