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J Mol Neurosci. 2013 Jul;50(3):482-93. doi: 10.1007/s12031-013-9968-9. Epub 2013 Jan 30.

17β-estradiol impedes Bax-involved mitochondrial apoptosis of retinal nerve cells induced by oxidative damage via the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/Akt signal pathway.

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Department of Genetics and Molecular Biology, Xi'an Jiaotong University College of Medicine, Xi'an, Shaanxi, 710061, China.


Oxidative stress leading to retinal nerve cells (RNCs) apoptosis is a major cause of neurodegenerative disorders of the retina. 17β-Estradiol (E2) has been suggested to be a neuroprotective agent in the central nervous system; however, at present, the underlying mechanisms are not well understood, and the related research on the RNCs is less reported. Here, in order to investigate the protective role and mechanism of E2 against oxidative stress-induced damage on RNCs, the transmission electron microscopy and annexin V-FITC/propidium iodide assay were applied to detect the RNCs apoptosis. Western blot and real-time PCR were used to determine the expression of the critical molecules in Bcl-2 and caspase family associated with apoptosis. The transmission electron microscopy results showed that H(2)O(2) could induce typical features of apoptosis in RNCs, including formation of the apoptosome. E2 could, however, suppress the H(2)O(2)-induced morphological changes of apoptosis. Intriguingly, we observed E2-mediated phagocytic scavenging of apoptosome. In response to H(2)O(2)-induced apoptosis, Bax, acting as one of the pivotal pro-apoptotic members of Bcl-2 family, increased significantly, which directly resulted in an increased ratio of Bax to anti-apoptotic protein Bcl-2 (Bax/Bcl-2). Additionally, caspases 9 and 3, which are the critical molecules of the mitochondrial apoptosis pathway, were activated by H(2)O(2). In contrast, E2 exerted anti-apoptotic effects by reducing the expression of Bax to decrease the ratio of Bax/Bcl-2 and impeded the caspases 9/3 activation. Moreover, LY294002, a phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) inhibitor, could sharply block the effect of E2 in reducing the percentage of apoptotic cells resistance to H(2)O(2). And the attenuation of Bax, the reduced activities of caspases 9/3 and the impeded release of mitochondrial cytochrome c mediated by E2 resistance to H(2)O(2) damage were significantly retrieved by LY294002 administration. Taken together, E2 protects the RNCs against H(2)O(2)-induced apoptosis by significantly inhibiting the Bax-involved mitochondrial apoptosis via the activation of PI3K/Akt signal pathway.

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