Administration of the mitochondrial complex I inhibitor rotenone provides an excellent model to study the pathomechanism of oxidative stress-related neural degeneration diseases. In this study, we examined the glial roles in retinal cell survival and degeneration under the rotenone-induced oxidative stress condition. Mouse-derived Müller, microglial (BV-2), and dissociated retinal cells were used for in vitro experiments. Gene expression levels and cell viability were determined using quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction and the alamarBlue assay, respectively. Conditioned media were prepared by stimulating glial cells with rotenone. Retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) and inner nuclear layer (INL) were visualized on rat retinal sections by immunohistochemistry and eosin/hematoxylin, respectively. Rotenone dose-dependently induced glial cell death. Treatment with rotenone or rotenone-stimulated glial cell-conditioned media altered gene expression of growth factors and inflammatory cytokines in glial cells. The viability of dissociated retinal cells significantly increased upon culturing in media conditioned with rotenone-stimulated or Müller cell-conditioned media-stimulated BV-2 cells. Furthermore, intravitreal neurotrophin-5 administration prevented the rotenone-induced reduction of RGC number and INL thickness in rats. Thus, glial cells exerted both positive and negative effects on retinal cell survival in rotenone-induced neural degeneration via altered expression of growth factors, especially upregulation of microglia-derived Ntf5, and proinflammatory cytokines.
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