CD73 controls ocular adenosine levels and protects retina from light-induced phototoxicity

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2022 Feb 25;79(3):152. doi: 10.1007/s00018-022-04187-4.


ATP and adenosine have emerged as important signaling molecules involved in vascular remodeling, retinal functioning and neurovascular coupling in the mammalian eye. However, little is known about the regulatory mechanisms of purinergic signaling in the eye. Here, we used three-dimensional multiplexed imaging, in situ enzyme histochemistry, flow cytometric analysis, and single cell transcriptomics to characterize the whole pattern of purine metabolism in mouse and human eyes. This study identified ecto-nucleoside triphosphate diphosphohydrolase-1 (NTPDase1/CD39), NTPDase2, and ecto-5'-nucleotidase/CD73 as major ocular ecto-nucleotidases, which are selectively expressed in the photoreceptor layer (CD73), optic nerve head, retinal vasculature and microglia (CD39), as well as in neuronal processes and cornea (CD39, NTPDase2). Specifically, microglial cells can create a spatially arranged network in the retinal parenchyma by extending and retracting their branched CD39high/CD73low processes and forming local "purinergic junctions" with CD39low/CD73- neuronal cell bodies and CD39high/CD73- retinal blood vessels. The relevance of the CD73-adenosine pathway was confirmed by flash electroretinography showing that pharmacological inhibition of adenosine production by injection of highly selective CD73 inhibitor PSB-12489 in the vitreous cavity of dark-adapted mouse eyes rendered the animals hypersensitive to prolonged bright light, manifested as decreased a-wave and b-wave amplitudes. The impaired electrical responses of retinal cells in PSB-12489-treated mice were not accompanied by decrease in total thickness of the retina or death of photoreceptors and retinal ganglion cells. Our study thus defines ocular adenosine metabolism as a complex and spatially integrated network and further characterizes the critical role of CD73 in maintaining the functional activity of retinal cells.

Keywords: Adenosine receptors; Ecto-5′-nucleotidase/CD73; Mouse and human retina; NTPDase1/CD39.

MeSH terms

  • 5'-Nucleotidase / antagonists & inhibitors
  • 5'-Nucleotidase / genetics
  • 5'-Nucleotidase / metabolism*
  • Adenosine / metabolism*
  • Adenosine Diphosphate / analogs & derivatives
  • Adenosine Diphosphate / pharmacology
  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Antigens, CD / genetics
  • Antigens, CD / metabolism
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Apoptosis / radiation effects
  • Apyrase / genetics
  • Apyrase / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Light*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Microglia / metabolism
  • Photoreceptor Cells / metabolism
  • Retina / metabolism
  • Retina / physiology
  • Retina / radiation effects*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / cytology
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / metabolism


  • Antigens, CD
  • alpha,beta-methyleneadenosine 5'-diphosphate
  • Adenosine Diphosphate
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • 5'-Nucleotidase
  • Apyrase
  • CD39 antigen
  • Adenosine