Puerarin Attenuates N-Methyl-D-aspartic Acid–induced Apoptosis and Retinal Ganglion Cell Damage Through the JNK/p38 MAPK Pathway

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To explore the protective effect of puerarin on N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA)-induced retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) injury and its underlying mechanism.

Materials and Methods:

Primary RGCs were isolated from P3-P7 Sprague-Dawley rats and purified by sequential immunopanning using Thy1.1 antibodies. NMDA was used to mimic the glutamate activation, cell apoptosis, reactive oxygen species (ROS), malondialdehyde levels, SOD and NO production, nNOS and iNOS expression, as well as caspase-3 activity, Bcl-2, and Bax expression in the RGCs were analyzed by ELISA, RT-PCR, and Western blotting. A rat model of retinal injury was used to detect the protective effect of puerarin.


Puerarin protected against NMDA-induced RGCs injury in a dose-dependent manner. Compared with the NMDA-treated group, puerarin pretreatment significantly reduced ROS and malondialdehyde levels, promoted SOD and NO production, and downregulated nNOS and iNOS expression in the RGCs. Mechanism analysis showed that pretreatment with puerarin could effectively offset the increase of Bax expression and caspase-3 activity brought by NMDA, and promote Bcl-2 expression in the RGCs. Puerarin pretreatment also effectively inhibited NMDA-induced JNK and p38 phosphorylation in the RGCs, whereas pretreatment with either JNK agonist anisomycin or p38 agonist P79350 could significantly compensate the effects caused by puerarin. Furthermore, puerarin prevented RGCs loss in the retinal injury induced by intravitreal NMDA in a rat model.


The present results of this study demonstrated that puerarin protected against NMDA-induced apoptosis and RGCs damage through the JNK/p38 MAPK pathway.

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