Decreased blood flow to the optic nerve (ON) and neuroinflammation are suggested to play an important role in the pathophysiology of glaucoma. This study investigated the potential neuroprotective effect of azithromycin, an anti-inflammatory macrolide, and sildenafil, a selective phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitor, on retinal ganglion cell survival in a glaucoma model, which was induced by microbead injection into the right anterior chamber of 50 wild-type (WT) and 30 transgenic toll-like receptor 4 knockout (TLR4KO) mice. Treatment groups included intraperitoneal azithromycin 0.1 mL (1 mg/0.1 mL), intravitreal sildenafil 3 µL, or intraperitoneal sildenafil 0.1 mL (0.24 μg/3 µL). Left eyes served as controls. Microbead injection increased intraocular pressure (IOP), which peaked on day 7 in all groups and on day 14 in azithromycin-treated mice. Furthermore, the retinas and ON of microbead-injected eyes showed a trend of increased expression of inflammatory- and apoptosis-related genes, mainly in WT and to a lesser extent in TLR4KO mice. Azithromycin reduced the BAX/BCL2 ratio, TGFβ, and TNFα levels in the ON and CD45 expression in WT retina. Sildenafil activated TNFα-mediated pathways. Both azithromycin and sildenafil exerted a neuroprotective effect in WT and TLR4KO mice with microbead-induced glaucoma, albeit via different pathways, without affecting IOP. The relatively low apoptotic effect observed in microbead-injected TLR4KO mice suggests a role of inflammation in glaucomatous damage.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was partially funded by the Zanvyl and Isabelle Krieger Fund, Baltimore, MD, USA; Israel Scientific Foundation Grant 2509/21; and Claire and Amedee Maratier Institute for the Study of Blindness and Visual Disorders, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University. The funding organization had no role in the design or conduct of this research.
© 2023 by the authors.