Intravitreal MPTP drives retinal ganglion cell loss with oral nicotinamide treatment providing robust neuroprotection

Acta Neuropathol Commun. 2024 May 21;12(1):79. doi: 10.1186/s40478-024-01782-3.


Neurodegenerative diseases have common underlying pathological mechanisms including progressive neuronal dysfunction, axonal and dendritic retraction, and mitochondrial dysfunction resulting in neuronal death. The retina is often affected in common neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have demonstrated that the retina in patients with Parkinson’s disease undergoes changes that parallel the dysfunction in the brain. These changes classically include decreased levels of dopamine, accumulation of alpha-synuclein in the brain and retina, and death of dopaminergic nigral neurons and retinal amacrine cells leading to gross neuronal loss. Exploring this disease’s retinal phenotype and vision-related symptoms is an important window for elucidating its pathophysiology and progression, and identifying novel ways to diagnose and treat Parkinson’s disease. 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) is commonly used to model Parkinson’s disease in animal models. MPTP is a neurotoxin converted to its toxic form by astrocytes, transported to neurons through the dopamine transporter, where it causes mitochondrial Complex I inhibition and neuron degeneration. Systemic administration of MPTP induces retinal changes in different animal models. In this study, we assessed the effects of MPTP on the retina directly via intravitreal injection in mice (5 mg/mL and 50 mg/mL to 7, 14 and 21 days post-injection). MPTP treatment induced the reduction of retinal ganglion cells-a sensitive neuron in the retina-at all time points investigated. This occurred without a concomitant loss of dopaminergic amacrine cells or neuroinflammation at any of the time points or concentrations tested. The observed neurodegeneration which initially affected retinal ganglion cells indicated that this method of MPTP administration could yield a fast and straightforward model of retinal ganglion cell neurodegeneration. To assess whether this model could be amenable to neuroprotection, mice were treated orally with nicotinamide (a nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide precursor) which has been demonstrated to be neuroprotective in several retinal ganglion cell injury models. Nicotinamide was strongly protective following intravitreal MPTP administration, further supporting intravitreal MPTP use as a model of retinal ganglion cell injury. As such, this model could be utilized for testing neuroprotective treatments in the context of Parkinson’s disease and retinal ganglion cell injury.

PMID:38773545 | DOI:10.1186/s40478-024-01782-3