Stress-induced activation of Nox contributes to cell survival signalling via production of hydrogen peroxide

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Reactive oxygen species (ROS) have traditionally been viewed as a toxic group of molecules; however, recent publications have shown that these molecules, including H2O2, can also strongly promote cell survival. Even though the retina has a large capacity to produce ROS, little is known about its non-mitochondrial sources of these molecules, in particular the expression and function of NADPH oxidase (Nox) proteins which are involved in the direct generation of superoxide and indirectly H2O2. This study demonstrated that 661W cells, a retina-derived cell line, and mouse retinal explants express Nox2, Nox4 and certain of their well-established regulators. The roles of Nox2 and Nox4 in producing pro-survival H2O2 were determined using 661W cells and some of the controlling factors were identified. To ascertain if this phenomenon could have physiological relevance, the novel technique of time-lapse imaging of dichlorofluorescein fluorescence (generated upon H2O2 production) in retinal explants was established and it showed that explants also produce a burst of H2O2. The increase in H2O2 production was partly blocked by an inhibitor of Nox proteins. Overall, this study demonstrates a pro-survival role of Nox2 and Nox4 in retina-derived cells, elucidates some of the regulatory mechanisms and reveals that a similar phenomenon exists in retinal tissue as a whole.

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