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Inhibition of NLRP3 inflammasome by MCC950 under hypoxia alleviates photoreceptor apoptosis via inducing autophagy in Müller glia.

NLRP3 inflammasome activation has emerged as a critical initiator of inflammatory response in ischemic retinopathy. Here, we identified the effect of a potent, selective NLRP3 inhibitor, MCC950, on autophagy and apoptosis under hypoxia. Neonatal mice were exposed to hyperoxia for 5 days to establish oxygen-induced retinopathy (OIR) model. Intravitreal injection of MCC950 was given, and then autophagy and apoptosis markers were assessed. Retinal autophagy, apoptosis, and related pathways were evaluated by western blot, immunofluorescent labeling, transmission electron microscopy, and TUNEL assay. Autophagic activity in Müller glia after NLRP3 inflammasome inhibition, together with its influence on photoreceptor death, was studied using western blot, immunofluorescence staining, mRFP-GFP-LC3 adenovirus transfection, cell viability, proliferation, and apoptosis assays. Results showed that activation of NLRP3 inflammasome in Müller glia was detected in OIR model. MCC950 could improve impaired retinal autophagic flux and attenuate retinal apoptosis while it regulated the retinal AMPK/mTOR/ULK-1 pathway. Suppressed autophagy and depressed proliferation capacity resulting from hypoxia was promoted after MCC950 treatment in Müller glia. Inhibition of AMPK and ULK-1 pathway significantly interfered with the MCC950-induced autophagy activity, indicating MCC950 positively modulated autophagy through AMPK/mTOR/ULK-1 pathway in Müller cells. Furthermore, blockage of autophagy in Müller glia significantly induced apoptosis in the cocultured 661W photoreceptor cells, whereas MCC950 markedly preserved the density of photoreceptor cells. These findings substantiated the therapeutic potential of MCC950 against impaired autophagy and subsequent apoptosis under hypoxia. Such protective effect might involve the modulation of AMPK/mTOR/ULK-1 pathway. Targeting NLRP3 inflammasome in Müller glia could be beneficial for photoreceptor survival under hypoxic conditions.

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