Oxidative stress to RGC-5 cells in culture was delivered by exposure to a combination of glutamate (Glu) and buthionine-S,R-sulfoximine (BSO). The effect of the insult on cell survival was quantified by the resazurin-reduction and a dead/live assays. Moreover, breakdown of DNA, the localisation of phosphatidylserine and reactive radical species (ROS) and its quantification were determined. In addition, various proteins and mRNAs were studied using Western blot, real time PCR and immunocytochemistry. ACS14, its sulfurated moiety ACS1 and aspirin were tested for their ability to blunt the negative effects of Glu/BSO on RGC-5 cells. In addition assays were carried out to see whether any of these substances influenced glutathione (GSH).
Glu/BSO dose-dependently kills RGC-5 cells by a mechanism that involves an elevation of ROS accompanied by a breakdown of DNA, expression of phosphatidylserine and the activation of p38 MAPK. The process is unaffected by the pan caspase inhibitor z-VAD-fmk, does not involve the activation of apoptosis inducing factor (AIF) but is sensitive to active necrostatin-1. In cell viability studies (resazurin-reduction assay), ACS1 and ACS14 equally counteracted the negative effects of 5 mM Glu/BSO to RGC-5 cells but aspirin was only effective with a milder oxidative stress (1 mM Glu/BSO). In all other assays ACS14 was very much more effective than aspirin at counteracting the influence of 5 mM Glu/BSO. Moreover, ACS14 and ACS1 directly stimulated GSH while aspirin was ineffective. In addition the neuroprotecive effect of ACS14 was specifically blunted by the non-specific potassium channel blocker glibenclamide. Also the up-regulation of Bcl-2, HO-1 and XIAP induced by 5 mM Glu/BSO were all attenuated to a greater extent by ACS14 (20 μM) than aspirin (20 μM). These data show that ACS14 is a very effective neuroprotectant when compared with aspirin. ACS14 maintains its aspirin characteristics and has the ability to release H2S. The combined multiple actions of aspirin and H2S in the form of ACS14 is worthy to consider for possible use in the treatment of glaucoma.