Racic T, Chang A, Fernando N, Brandli A, Natoli R, Penfold P, Provis JM, Rutar M. Anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties of the corticosteroid fludrocortisone in retinal degeneration. Exp Eye Res. 2021 Sep 9:108765. doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2021.108765. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34509498.
The pathogenesis of outer retinal degenerations has been linked to the elevation of cytokines that orchestrate pro-inflammatory responses within the retinal milieu, and which are thought to play a role in diseases such as geographic atrophy (GA), an advanced form of AMD. Here we sought investigate the anti-inflammatory and mechanistic properties of fludrocortisone (FA), as well as triamcinolone acetonide (TA), on Müller cell-mediated cytokine expression in response to inflammatory challenge. In addition, we investigated the neuroprotective efficacy of FA and TA in a photo-oxidative damage (PD), a model of outer retinal degeneration. Expression of CCL2, IL-6, and IL-8 with respect to FA and TA were assessed in Müller cells in vitro, following simulation with IL-1β or TNF-α. The dependency of this effect on mineralocorticoid and glucocorticoid signaling was also interrogated for both TA and TA via co-incubation with steroid receptor antagonists. For the PD model, C57BL/6 mice were intravitreally injected with FA or TA, and changes in retinal pathology were assessed via electroretinogram (ERG) and optical coherence tomography (OCT). FA and TA were found to dramatically reduce the expression of CCL2, IL-6, and IL-8 in Müller glia in vitro after inflammatory challenge with IL-1β or TNF-α (P < 0.05). Though FA acts as both a mineralocorticoid and glucocorticoid receptor agonist, co-incubation with selective steroid antagonists revealed that the suppressive effect of FA on CCL2, IL-6, and IL-8 expression is mediated by glucocorticoid signaling (P < 0.05). In PD, intravitreal FA was found to ameliorate outer-retinal atrophy as measured by ERG and OCT (P < 0.05), while TA had no significant effect (P > 0.05). Our data indicate potent anti-inflammatory and mechanistic properties of corticosteroids, specifically FA, in suppressing inflammation and neurodegeneration degeneration associated with outer retinal atrophy. Taken together, our findings indicate that corticosteroids such as FA may have value as a potential therapeutic for outer retinal degenerations where such pro-inflammatory factors are implicated, including AMD.