Experimental and therapeutic medicine

Activation of autophagy and paraptosis in retinal ganglion cells after retinal ischemia and reperfusion injury in rats.

PMID 25574219


Glaucoma is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by elevated intraocular pressure (IOP), which causes retinal ischemia and progressive neuronal death. Retinal ischemia/reperfusion (RIR) injury is a common clinical condition representing the main cause of irreversible visual field defects in humans. The aim of this study was to investigate whether non-apoptotic forms of programmed cell death (PCD) have an effect on RIR injury in an experimental model that replicates features of acute hypertensive glaucoma and to explore the possible underlying mechanisms. The activation of autophagy was investigated in retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) following RIR in comparison with a control group, using immunofluorescence against microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 (LC3). RIR injury increased LC3 expression in the cytoplasm of RGCs in the ganglion cell layer (GCL) 6 h after the insult, and the increased expression was sustained throughout the experimental period. Following RIR insult, the number of neurons in the GCL significantly decreased. Ultra-structural analyses showed that double- or multiple-membrane autophagosomes were markedly accumulated in the cytoplasm of RGCs following IOP elevation. Since there are no known markers for paraptosis, its identification was based on morphological criteria. Electron microscopy (EM) analysis revealed severe structural alterations associated with cytoplasmatic vacuolization within the 6 h after RIR injury and RGC death. EM also revealed that vacuoles were derived predominantly from the progressive swelling of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and/or mitochondria in RGCs after RIR injury. The results provide novel evidence implicating an important role of autophagy and paraptosis in the pathogenesis of RIR injury. Autophagy and paraptosis take place during developmental cell death in the nervous system as well as in certain cases of neurodegeneration. Therefore, targeting autophagy and paraptosis could have therapeutic potential for the prevention of glaucoma involving RIR injury.