Purpose: Retinal ischemia induces apoptosis leading to neurodegeneration and vision impairment. Carbon monoxide (CO) in gaseous form showed cell-protective and anti-inflammatory effects after retinal ischemia-reperfusion-injury (IRI). These effects were also demonstrated for the intravenously administered CO-releasing molecule (CORM) ALF-186. This article summarizes the results of intravitreally released CO to assess its suitability as a neuroprotective and neuroregenerative agent.
Methods: Water-soluble CORM ALF-186 (25 μg), PBS, or inactivated ALF (iALF) (all 5 μl) were intravitreally applied into the left eyes of rats directly after retinal IRI for 1 h. Their right eyes remained unaffected and were used for comparison. Retinal tissue was harvested 24 h after intervention to analyze mRNA or protein expression of Caspase-3, pERK1/2, p38, HSP70/90, NF-kappaB, AIF-1 (allograft inflammatory factor), TNF-α, and GAP-43. Densities of fluorogold-prelabeled retinal ganglion cells (RGC) were examined in flat-mounted retinae seven days after IRI and were expressed as mean/mm2. The ability of RGC to regenerate their axon was evaluated two and seven days after IRI using retinal explants in laminin-1-coated cultures. Immunohistochemistry was used to analyze the different cell types growing out of the retinal explants.
Results: Compared to the RGC-density in the contralateral right eyes (2804±214 RGC/mm2; data are mean±SD), IRI+PBS injection resulted in a remarkable loss of RGC (1554±159 RGC/mm2), p<0.001. Intravitreally injected ALF-186 immediately after IRI provided RGC protection and reduced the extent of RGC-damage (IRI+PBS 1554±159 vs. IRI+ALF 2179±286, p<0.001). ALF-186 increased the IRI-mediated phosphorylation of MAP-kinase p38. Anti-apoptotic and anti-inflammatory effects were detectable as Caspase-3, NF-kappaB, TNF-α, and AIF-1 expression were significantly reduced after IRI+ALF in comparison to IRI+PBS or IRI+iALF. Gap-43 expression was significantly increased after IRI+ALF. iALF showed effects similar to PBS. The intrinsic regenerative potential of RGC-axons was induced to nearly identical levels after IRI and ALF or iALF-treatment under growth-permissive conditions, although RGC viability differed significantly in both groups. Intravitreal CO further increased the IRI-induced migration of GFAP-positive cells out of retinal explants and their transdifferentiation, which was detected by re-expression of beta-III tubulin and nestin.
Conclusion: Intravitreal CORM ALF-186 protected RGC after IRI and stimulated their axons to regenerate in vitro. ALF conveyed anti-apoptotic, anti-inflammatory, and growth-associated signaling after IRI. CO's role in neuroregeneration and its effect on retinal glial cells needs further investigation.