Astrocytes perform critical non–cell autonomous roles following CNS injury that involve either neurotoxic or neuroprotective effects. Yet the nature of potential prosurvival cues has remained unclear. In the current study, we utilized the close interaction between astrocytes and retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) in the eye to characterize a secreted neuroprotective signal present in retinal astrocyte conditioned medium (ACM). Rather than a conventional peptide neurotrophic factor, we identified a prominent lipid component of the neuroprotective signal through metabolomics screening. The lipoxins LXA4 and LXB4 are small lipid mediators that act locally to dampen inflammation, but they have not been linked directly to neuronal actions. Here, we determined that LXA4 and LXB4 are synthesized in the inner retina, but their levels are reduced following injury. Injection of either lipoxin was sufficient for neuroprotection following acute injury, while inhibition of key lipoxin pathway components exacerbated injury-induced damage. Although LXA4 signaling has been extensively investigated, LXB4, the less studied lipoxin, emerged to be more potent in protection. Moreover, LXB4 neuroprotection was different from that of established LXA4 signaling, and therapeutic LXB4 treatment was efficacious in a chronic model of the common neurodegenerative disease glaucoma. Together, these results identify a potential paracrine mechanism that coordinates neuronal homeostasis and inflammation in the CNS.
Izhar Livne-Bar, Jessica Wei, Hsin-Hua Liu, Samih Alqawlaq, Gah-Jone Won, Alessandra Tuccitto, Karsten Gronert, John G. Flanagan, Jeremy M. Sivak