Liraglutide alleviates H2O2-induced retinal ganglion cells injury by inhibiting autophagy through mitochondrial pathways

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Retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), which exist in the inner retina, are the retinal neurons which can be damaged in the early stage of diabetic retinopathy (DR). Liraglutide, a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) analog, exerts biological functions by binding the receptor (GLP-1R), the expression of which in RGC-5 cells was first shown by our team in 2012. It was reported that liraglutide prevented retinal neurodegeneration in diabetic subjects. However, the involvement of mechanisms such as autophagy and mitochondrial balance in liraglutide-induced retinal protection is unknown. Here, we aimed to investigate the protective effects of liraglutide and explore the potential mechanisms of liraglutide-induced retinal RGC protection. RGC-5 cells were treated with H2O2 and/or liraglutide. Cell viability was detected with the CCK-8 kit. The axon marker GAP43, autophagy and mitophagy indicators LC3A/B, Beclin-1, p62, Parkin, BCL2/Adenovirus E1B 19 kDa protein-interacting protein 3-like (BNIP3L) and the key regulator of mitochondrial biogenesis PGC-1α were examined via western blot analysis. Autophagy was also evaluated using the ImageXpress Micro XLS system and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Reactive oxygen species (ROS), mitochondrial membrane potential and fluorescent staining for mitochondria were also measured using the ImageXpress Micro XLS system. Our results showed that pretreatment with liraglutide significantly prevented H2O2-induced cell viability decline, mitochondrial morphological deterioration and induction of autophagy, which appeared as increased expression of LC3 II/I and Beclin-1, along with p62 degradation. Moreover, liraglutide suppressed the H2O2-induced decline in GAP43 expression, thus protecting cells. However, rapamycin induced autophagy and blocked the protective process. Liraglutide also provided mitochondrial protection and appeared to alleviate H2O2-induced ROS overproduction and a decline in mitochondrial membrane potential, partially by promoting mitochondrial generation and attenuating mitophagy. In conclusion, liraglutide attenuates H2O2 induced RGC-5 cell injury by inhibiting autophagy through maintaining a balance between mitochondrial biogenesis and mitophagy.

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