Background: Retinal inflammation can cause retinal neural disorders. In particular, functional disorder in the cone photoreceptor system influences visual acuity. However, the underlying mechanism is not yet fully understood. In this study, we evaluated cone system function and the role of 5'-adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK) during retinal inflammation. Results: Six to eight-week-old male C57BL/6 mice received an intraperitoneal injection of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) to induce retinal inflammation, and were treated with an AMPK activator, 5-aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide ribonucleoside (AICAR; 250 mg/kg body weight) or phosphate-buffered saline as vehicle 3 h before the LPS injection. The b-wave of the photopic electroretinogram, which represents cone system function, was decreased 24 h after LPS injection and this reduction was suppressed by AICAR treatment. At this time point, there was no remarkable morphological change in the cone photoreceptor cells. At 1.5 h after LPS injection, the retina mRNA levels of an inflammatory cytokine, Tnf-α, were increased, and those of a regulator of mitochondrial biogenesis, Pgc1-α, were decreased. However, AICAR treatment suppressed these changes in mRNA expression. Immunohistochemistry showed that induction of glial fibrillary acidic protein expression was also suppressed by AICAR 24 h after LPS injection. Furthermore, the mouse cone photoreceptor-derived cell line 661W was treated with AICAR to increase the level of phosphorylated and activated AMPK. After 3 h of AICAR incubation, 661W cells showed decreased Tnf-α mRNA levels and increased Pgc1-α mRNA levels. Conclusion: AMPK activation has a neuroprotective effect on cone system function during inflammation, and the effect may, at least in part, involve the regulation of inflammatory cytokines and mitochondrial condition.
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