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Abduqodir H. Toychiev, Khulan Batsuuri, Miduturu Srinivas; Gap Junctional Coupling Between Retinal Astrocytes Exacerbates Neuronal Damage in Ischemia-Reperfusion Injury. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2021;62(14):27. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/iovs.62.14.27.
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Retinal astrocytes abundantly express connexin 43 (Cx43), a transmembrane protein that forms gap junction (GJ) channels and unopposed hemichannels. While it is well established that Cx43 is upregulated in retinal injuries, it is unclear whether astrocytic Cx43 plays a role in retinal ganglion cell (RGC) loss associated with injury. Here, we investigated the effect of astrocyte-specific deletion of Cx43 (Cx43KO) and channel inhibitors on RGC loss in retinal ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) injury and assessed changes in expression and GJ channel and hemichannel function that occur in I/R injury. The effect of Cx43 deletion on neural function in the uninjured retina was also assessed.
Cx43 expression, astrocyte density and morphology, and RGC death in wild-type and Cx43KO mice after I/R injury were determined using immunohistochemistry and Western blotting. Visual function was assessed using ERG recordings. GJ coupling and hemichannel activity were evaluated using tracer coupling and uptake studies, respectively.
Loss of RGCs in I/R injury was accompanied by an increase of Cx43 expression in astrocytes. Functional studies indicated that I/R injury augmented astrocytic GJ coupling but not Cx43 hemichannel activity. Importantly, deletion of astrocytic Cx43 improved neuronal survival in acute ischemia but did not affect RGC function in the absence of injury. In support, pharmacologic inhibition of GJ coupling provided neuroprotection in I/R injury.
The increase in Cx43 expression and GJ coupling during acute I/R injury exacerbates RGC loss. Inhibition of astrocytic Cx43 channels might represent a useful strategy to promote RGC survival in pathologic conditions.
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