J Neuroinflammation. 2023 Dec 12;20(1):296. doi: 10.1186/s12974-023-02982-9.
BACKGROUND: Neuroinflammation and mitochondrial dysfunction play crucial roles in retinal ischemia and reperfusion (IR) injury. Recent studies have identified mitochondrial function as a promising target for immunomodulation. Empagliflozin (EMPA), an anti-diabetic drug, has exhibited great potential as both an anti-inflammatory agent and a protector of mitochondrial health. This study aimed to assess the therapeutic efficacy of EMPA in retinal IR injury.
METHODS: To evaluate the protective effects of EMPA, the drug was injected into the vitreous body of mice post-retinal IR. Single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) analysis was conducted to uncover the underlying mechanisms, and the results were further validated through in vivo and in vitro experiments.
RESULTS: EMPA effectively protected retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) from IR injury by attenuating local retinal inflammation. The scRNA-seq analysis revealed that EMPA downregulated the nucleotide-binding domain and leucine-rich repeat containing protein 3 (NLRP3) signaling pathway and restored mitochondrial dynamics by upregulating the expression of mitochondrial fusion-related genes, Mitofusin 1 (Mfn1) and optic atrophy 1 (Opa1). These findings were further corroborated by Western blotting. In vitro experiments provided additional insights, demonstrating that EMPA suppressed lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced cell inflammation and NLRP3 inflammasome activation. Moreover, EMPA enhanced mitochondrial fusion, neutralized mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (mtROS), and restored mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP) in BV2 microglia. Notably, genetic ablation of Mfn1 or Opa1 abolished the anti-inflammatory effects of EMPA.
CONCLUSIONS: Our findings highlight the positive contribution of Mfn1 and Opa1 to the anti-inflammatory therapeutic effect of EMPA. By restoring mitochondrial dynamics, EMPA effectively mitigates microglia-mediated neuroinflammation and prevents RGC loss in retinal IR injury.