Oxidative stress is implicated in various neurodegenerative disorders, including retinitis pigmentosa (RP), an inherited disease that causes blindness. The biological and cellular mechanisms by which oxidative stress mediates neuronal cell death are largely unknown. In a mouse model of RP (rd10 mice), we show that oxidative DNA damage activates microglia through MutY homolog–mediated (MUYTH-mediated) base excision repair (BER), thereby exacerbating retinal inflammation and degeneration. In the early stage of retinal degeneration, oxidative DNA damage accumulated in the microglia and caused single-strand breaks (SSBs) and poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase activation. In contrast, Mutyh deficiency in rd10 mice prevented SSB formation in microglia, which in turn suppressed microglial activation and photoreceptor cell death. Moreover, Mutyh-deficient primary microglial cells attenuated the polarization to the inflammatory and cytotoxic phenotype under oxidative stress. Thus, MUTYH-mediated BER in oxidative microglial activation may be a novel target to dampen the disease progression in RP and other neurodegenerative disorders that are associated with oxidative stress.
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