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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Agmatine protects retinal ganglion cells from hypoxia-induced apoptosis in transformed rat retinal ganglion cell line

Samin Hong1, Jong Eun Lee2, Chan Yun Kim1 and Gong Je Seong1*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Vision Research, Department of Ophthalmology, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea

2 Department of Anatomy, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea

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BMC Neuroscience 2007, 8:81  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-8-81

Published: 2 October 2007

Abstract

Background

Agmatine is an endogenous polyamine formed by the decarboxylation of L-arginine. We investigated the protective effects of agmatine against hypoxia-induced apoptosis of immortalized rat retinal ganglion cells (RGC-5). RGC-5 cells were cultured in a closed hypoxic chamber (5% O2) with or without agmatine. Cell viability was determined by lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) assay and apoptosis was examined by annexin V and caspase-3 assays. Expression and phosphorylation of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs; JNK, ERK p44/42, and p38) and nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB) were investigated by Western immunoblot analysis. The effects of agmatine were compared to those of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a well-known protective neurotrophin for retinal ganglion cells.

Results

After 48 hours of hypoxic culture, the LDH assay showed 52.3% cell loss, which was reduced to 25.6% and 30.1% when agmatine and BDNF were administered, respectively. This observed cell loss was due to apoptotic cell death, as established by annexin V and caspase-3 assays. Although total expression of MAPKs and NF-κB was not influenced by hypoxic injury, phosphorylation of these two proteins was increased. Agmatine reduced phosphorylation of JNK and NF-κB, while BDNF suppressed phosphorylation of ERK and p38.

Conclusion

Our results show that agmatine has neuroprotective effects against hypoxia-induced retinal ganglion cell damage in RGC-5 cells and that its effects may act through the JNK and NF-κB signaling pathways. Our data suggest that agmatine may lead to a novel therapeutic strategy to reduce retinal ganglion cell injury related to hypoxia.