Free Radic Biol Med. 2023 May 28:S0891-5849(23)00435-5. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2023.05.019. Online ahead of print.
Retinal ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) injury is a common pathological process responsible for cellular damage in glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and hypertensive retinopathy. Metformin is a biguanide drug that exerts strong effects on multiple diseases. This study aims to evaluate the protective effect of metformin against retinal I/R injury and its underlying mechanism. I/R induced reduction in retina thickness and cell number in ganglion cell layer, and metformin alleviated I/R-induced retinal injury. Both retinal I/R and simulated ischemia/reperfusion (SIR) in R28 cells down-regulated expression of mitochondrial fusion protein Mfn2 and OPA1, which led to mitochondrial fission. Metformin also alleviated damage in R28 cells, and reversed the alteration in Mfn2 and OPA1, mitochondrial fission and mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP) disruption-induced by I/R or SIR as well. Intriguingly, inhibition of AMPK by compound C or siRNA prevented metformin-mediated up-regulation of Mfn2 and OPA1. Compound C and knockdown of Mfn2 or OPA1 dramatically alleviated the protective effect of metformin against intracellular ROS generation, MMP disruption, mitochondrial fission and loss of RGCs in ganglion cell layer-induced by SIR or I/R. Moreover, scavenging mitochondrial ROS (mito-ROS) by mito-TEMPO exerted the similar protection against I/R-induced retinal injury or SIR-induced damage in R28 cells as metformin. Our data show for the first time that metformin protects against retinal I/R injury through AMPK-mediated mitochondrial fusion and the decreased mito-ROS generation. These findings might also repurpose metformin as a therapeutic agent for retinal I/R injury.