In diabetic retinopathy (DR), abnormalities in vascular and neuronal function are closely related to the local production of inflammatory mediators whose potential source is microglia. A2A adenosine receptor (A2AAR) has been shown to possess anti-inflammatory properties that have not been studied in DR. Here, we evaluate the role of A2AAR and its underlying signaling in retinal complications associated with diabetes. Initial studies in wild-type mice revealed that the treatment with the A2AAR agonist resulted in marked decreases in hyperglycemia-induced retinal cell death and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α release. To further assess the role of A2AAR in DR, we studied the effects of A2AAR ablation on diabetes-induced retinal abnormalities. Diabetic A2AAR−/− mice had significantly more terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick-end labeling-positive cells, TNF-α release, and intercellular adhesion molecule-1 expression compared with diabetic wild-type mice. To explore a potential mechanism by which A2AAR signaling regulates inflammation in DR, we performed additional studies using microglial cells treated with Amadori-glycated albumin, a risk factor in diabetic disorders. The results showed that activation of A2AAR attenuated Amadori-glycated albumin-induced TNF-α release in a cAMP/exchange protein directly activated by cAMP-dependent mechanism and significantly repressed the inflammatory cascade, C-Raf/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), in activated microglia. Collectively, this work provides pharmacological and genetic evidence for A2AAR signaling as a control point of cell death in DR and suggests that the retinal protective effect of A2AAR is mediated by abrogating the inflammatory response that occurs in microglia via interaction with C-Raf/ERK pathway
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