Glial Cell Activation and Oxidative Stress in Retinal Degeneration Induced by β-Alanine Caused Taurine Depletion and Light Exposure.
We investigate glial cell activation and oxidative stress induced by taurine deficiency secondary to β-alanine administration and light exposure. Two months old Sprague-Dawley rats were divided into a control group and three experimental groups that were treated with 3% β-alanine in drinking water (taurine depleted) for two months, light exposed or both. Retinal and external thickness were measured in vivo at baseline and pre-processing with Spectral-Domain Optical Coherence Tomography (SD-OCT). Retinal cryostat cross sections were immunodetected with antibodies against various antigens to investigate microglial and macroglial cell reaction, photoreceptor outer segments, synaptic connections and oxidative stress. Taurine depletion caused a decrease in retinal thickness, shortening of photoreceptor outer segments, microglial cell activation, oxidative stress in the outer and inner nuclear layers and the ganglion cell layer and synaptic loss. These events were also observed in light exposed animals, which in addition showed photoreceptor death and macroglial cell reactivity. Light exposure under taurine depletion further increased glial cell reaction and oxidative stress. Finally, the retinal pigment epithelial cells were Fluorogold labeled and whole mounted, and we document that taurine depletion impairs their phagocytic capacity. We conclude that taurine depletion causes cell damage to various retinal layers including retinal pigment epithelial cells, photoreceptors and retinal ganglion cells, and increases the susceptibility of the photoreceptor outer segments to light damage. Thus, beta-alanine supplements should be used with caution.