Background: Detachment of photoreceptors from the underlying retinal pigment epithelium is seen in various retinal disorders such as retinal detachment and age-related macular degeneration and leads to loss of photoreceptors and vision. Pharmacologic inhibition of photoreceptor cell death may prevent this outcome. This study tests whether systemic administration of tauroursodeoxycholic acid (TUDCA) can protect photoreceptors from cell death after experimental retinal detachment in rodents.
Methodology/principal findings: Retinal detachment was created in rats by subretinal injection of hyaluronic acid. The animals were treated daily with vehicle or TUDCA (500 mg/kg). TUNEL staining was used to evaluate cell death. Photoreceptor loss was evaluated by measuring the relative thickness of the outer nuclear layer (ONL). Macrophage recruitment, oxidative stress, cytokine levels, and caspase levels were also quantified. Three days after detachment, TUDCA decreased the number of TUNEL-positive cells compared to vehicle (651±68/mm(2) vs. 1314±68/mm(2), P = 0.001) and prevented the reduction of ONL thickness ratio (0.84±0.03 vs. 0.65±0.03, P = 0.002). Similar results were obtained after 5 days of retinal detachment. Macrophage recruitment and expression levels of TNF-a and MCP-1 after retinal detachment were not affected by TUDCA treatment, whereas increases in activity of caspases 3 and 9 as well as carbonyl-protein adducts were almost completely inhibited by TUDCA treatment.
Conclusions/significance: Systemic administration of TUDCA preserved photoreceptors after retinal detachment, and was associated with decreased oxidative stress and caspase activity. TUDCA may be used as a novel therapeutic agent for preventing vision loss in diseases that are characterized by photoreceptor detachment.