Cannabinoids have been shown to protect the retina from ischemic/excitotoxic insults. The aim of the present study was to investigate the neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties of the synthetic cannabinoid (R)-WIN55,212-2 (CB1/CB2 receptor agonist) when administered acutely or subchronically in control and AMPA treated retinas. Sprague-Dawley rats were intravitreally administered (acutely) with vehicle or AMPA, in the absence or presence of (R)-WIN55,212-2 (10-10M) alone or in combination with AM251 [CB1 receptor antagonist/inverse agonist,10M] and AM630 (CB2 receptor antagonist,10M). In addition, AMPA was co-administered with the racemic (R,S)-WIN55,212 (10Μ). (R)-WIN55,212-2 was also administered subchronically (25,100μg/kg,i.p.,4d) in control and AMPA treated rats. Immunohistochemical studies were performed using antibodies against the CB1R, and retinal markers for retinal neurons (brain nitric oxide synthetase, bNOS) and microglia (ionized calcium binding adaptor molecule 1, Iba1). ELISA assay was employed to assess TNFα levels in AMPA treated retinas. Intravitreal administration of (R)-WIN55,212-2 reversed the AMPA induced loss of bNOS expressing amacrine cells, an effect that was blocked by both AM251 and AM630. (R,S)WIN55,212 had no effect. (R)-WIN55,212-2 also reduced a) the AMPA induced activation of microglia, by activating CB2 receptors that were shown to be colocalized with Iba1 reactive microglial cells, and b) TNFα levels in retina. (R)-WIN55,212-2 administered subchronically led to the downregulation of CB1 receptors at the high dose of 100μg/kg(i.p.), and to the attenuation of the WIN55,212-2 induced neuroprotection of amacrine cells. At the same dose, (R)-WIN55,212-2 did not attenuate the AMPA induced increase in the number of reactive microglia cells, suggesting CB2 receptor downregulation under subchronic conditions. This study provides new findings regarding the role of CB1 and CB2 receptor activation by the synthetic cannabinoid (R)-WIN55,212-2, administered acutely or sub-chronically, on neuron viability and microglia activation in healthy and diseased retina.
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