Excitotoxicity is involved in the retinal neuronal cell death in diabetic retinopathy. Although fenofibrate has been shown to ameliorate the progression of diabetic retinopathy, the effect of pemafibrate, which is highly selective for peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor α on retinal neuronal cell death has not been documented. Here, we investigated whether pemafibrate exerts a beneficial effect against retinal ganglion cell (RGC) death induced by N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) in rats. Experiments were performed on adult male Wistar rats that received an intravitreal injection of 20 nmol NMDA. Fluoro-Gold labeled RGC morphometry showed that oral intake of pemafibrate once a day for 7 days resulted in significant protection on RGC death induced by NMDA. Phosphorylated c-Jun protein, which is involved in apoptosis, was upregulated after NMDA exposure, and this increase was significantly lessened by the systemic pemafibrate treatment. Phosphorylated c-Jun immunopositive cells were colocalized with Thy-1 immunopositive cells, and the increased these cells were ameliorated by the pemafibrate treatment. An increase in TUNEL-positive cells was significantly suppressed by the pemafibrate treatment. Phosphorylated c-Jun immunopositive cells were colocalized with TUNEL-positive cells, and they were decreased by pemafibrate treatment. These results suggest that the RGC protection achieved with pemafibrate appears to be associated with inhibition of phosphorylated c-Jun and its anti-apoptotic effect.

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