Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) released from dying cells with high concentrations is sensed as a danger signal by the P2X7 receptor. Sodium iodate (NaIO3) is an oxidative toxic agent, and its retinal toxicity has been used as the model of dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD). In this study, we used NaIO3-treated mice and cultured retinal cells, including BV-2 microglia, 661W photoreceptors, rMC1 Müller cells and ARPE-19 retinal epithelial cells, to understand the pathological action of P2X7 in retinal degeneration. We found that NaIO3 can significantly decrease the photoreceptor function by reducing a-wave and b-wave amplitudes in electroretinogram (ERG) analysis. Optical coherence tomography (OCT) analysis revealed the degeneration of retinal epithelium and ganglion cell layers. Interestingly, P2X7−/− mice were protected from the NaIO3-induced retinopathy and inflammatory NLRP3, IL-1β and IL-6 gene expression in the retina. Hematoxylin and eosin staining indicated that the retinal epithelium was less deteriorated in P2X7−/− mice compared to the WT group. Although P2X7 was barely detected in 661W, rMC1 and ARPE-19 cells, its gene and protein levels can be increased after NaIO3 treatment, leading to a synergistic cytotoxicity of BzATP [2′(3′)-O-(4-benzoylbenzoyl)adenosine-5′-triphosphate tri(triethyleneammonium)salt] and NaIO3 administration in ARPE-19 cells. In conclusion, the paracrine action of the ATP/P2X7 axis via cell–cell communication is involved in NaIO3-induced retinal injury. Our results show that P2X7 antagonist might be a potential therapy in inflammation-related retinal degeneration.
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