Excessive exposure to light promotes degenerative and blinding retinal diseases such as age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa. However, the underlying mechanisms of photo-induced retinal degeneration are not fully understood, and a generalizable preventive intervention has not been proposed. Bilberry extract is an antioxidant-rich supplement that ameliorates ocular symptoms. However, its effects on photo-stressed retinas have not been clarified. In this study, we examined the neuroprotective effects of bilberry extract against photo-stress in murine retinas. Light-induced visual function impairment recorded by scotopic and phototopic electroretinograms showing respective rod and cone photoreceptor function was attenuated by oral administration of bilberry extract through a stomach tube in Balb/c mice (750 mg/kg body weight). Bilberry extract also suppressed photo-induced apoptosis in the photoreceptor cell layer and shortening of the outer segments of rod and cone photoreceptors. Levels of photo-induced reactive oxygen species (ROS), oxidative and endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress markers, as measured by real-time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction, were reduced by bilberry extract treatment. Reduction of ROS by N-acetyl-L-cysteine, a well-known antioxidant also suppressed ER stress. Immunohistochemical analysis of activating transcription factor 4 expression showed the presence of ER stress in the retina, and at least in part, in Müller glial cells. The photo-induced disruption of tight junctions in the retinal pigment epithelium was also attenuated by bilberry extract, repressing an oxidative stress marker, although ER stress markers were not repressed. Our results suggest that bilberry extract attenuates photo-induced apoptosis and visual dysfunction most likely, and at least in part, through ROS reduction, and subsequent ER stress attenuation in the retina. This study can help understand the mechanisms of photo-stress and contribute to developing a new, potentially useful therapeutic approach using bilberry extract for preventing retinal photo-damage.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)