In an rat glaucoma model using dissected retinas, the neurosteroid allopregnanolone (AlloP) protects retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) via GABR/GABA receptors. To determine the involvement of macroautophagy/autophagy in neuroprotection by AlloP, we examined the effects of autophagy activators, rapamycin and torin 2, and autophagy inhibitors, bafilomycin A and SAR405, on retinal retinal morphology and expression of MAP1 LC3B/LC3B (microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 beta) and SQSTM1 (sequestosome 1). Administration of rapamycin or torin 2 exerted partial histological neuroprotection, while combined administration of AlloP with bafilomycin A or SAR405 induced severe degeneration in a hyperbaric condition. Electron microscopic analyses showed that the addition of AlloP significantly increased autophagosomes and degenerative autophagic vacuoles in the retinal nerve fiber layer. Immunoblotting showed that the addition of AlloP or autophagic activators increased the lipidated form of LC3B (LC3B-II) and suppressed SQSTM1. Moreover, bafilomycin A increased LC3B-II and SQSTM1 protein levels in the presence of AlloP without changes in corresponding mRNAs compared to AlloP-treated retinas in a hyperbaric condition. These data indicate that AlloP likely induces a protective form of autophagy in this model. In an rat model of glaucoma, we also observed neuroprotective effects of AlloP. Injection of polystyrene microbeads into the anterior chamber increased intraocular pressure about 3-fold and induced RGC apoptosis. A single intravitreal injection of AlloP or autophagy activators prevented apoptosis and protected RGCs with autophagy activation. We conclude that AlloP may serve as a potential therapeutic agent for the treatment of glaucoma via diverse mechanisms. 2HBCD: 2-Hydroxypropyl)-β-cyclodextrin; 3-MA: 3-methyladenine; AlloP: allopregnanolone; AP: autophagosome; AVd: degradative autophagic vacuoles; GCL: ganglion cell layer; INL: inner nuclear layer; IOP: intraocular pressure; IPL: inner plexiform layer; LC3B-I: cytosolic form of LC3B; LCB-II: lipidated form of LC3B; MAP1LC3B/LC3B: microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 beta; mPTP: mitochondrial permeability transition pore; NDS: neuronal damage score; NFL: nerve fiber layer; OH: ocular hypertension; ON: optic nerve; ONL: outer nuclear layer; OPL: outer plexiform layer; p-STR: scotopic threshold response; RGC: retinal ganglion cells; RT-PCR: real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction; SQSTM1: sequestosome 1; TUNEL: TdT-mediated dUTP Nick End Labeling.
Department of Ophthalmology, Akita University Graduate School of Medicine, Akita, Japan.