p53 regulates apoptotic retinal ganglion cell death induced by N-methyl-D-aspartate.

PubMed ID: 12355059

Author(s): Li Y, Schlamp CL, Poulsen GL, Jackson MW, Griep AE, Nickells RW. p53 regulates apoptotic retinal ganglion cell death induced by N-methyl-D-aspartate. Mol Vis. 2002 Sep 15;8:341-50. PMID 12355059

Journal: Molecular Vision, Volume 8, Sep 2002

PURPOSE The tumor suppressor protein p53 plays a central role in regulating apoptosis in a variety of neuronal cell types. Previous studies have indicated that retinal ganglion cell (RGC) death induced by ischemia follows a p53-dependent pathway. Ischemia causes wide-spread damage to the retina, eliciting multiple different damaging pathways. We conducted experiments to specifically investigate the role of p53 in RGC death activated by overstimulation of the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor, an ionotropic glutamate dependent calcium channel normally involved in glutamate neurotransduction.

METHODS RGC death was induced in both wild-type (CB6F1 or 129/Sv) and p53-deficient (129/Sv background) mice by a single intravitreal injection of either 40 or 160 nmol of NMDA into one eye leaving the other eye as an untreated control. Cell loss was quantified by comparing the number of surviving cells in the retinas from experimental eyes relative to the control eyes of the same animals. The accumulation of p53 mRNA in retinas was monitored by reverse-transcription PCR (RT-PCR) of retinal total RNA isolated from mice injected with 40 nmol of NMDA. The functional requirement for p53 was monitored in p53-deficient mice after intravitreal injection of 160 nmol of NMDA. Immunohistochemistry for cleaved poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) was performed on p53-deficient mice after intravitreal injection of 160 nmol of NMDA.

RESULTS In wild-type CB6F1 mice, p53 mRNA levels are elevated within 3 h after NMDA injection. This accumulation correlates with the onset of changes in RGC nuclear morphology that precedes pyknosis, which occurs by 6 h. Mice (129/Sv) deficient for one or both alleles of p53 show no developmental change in RGC number, compared to wild-type animals (Mann-Whitney test, p=0.824), suggesting that p53 is not required for developmental programmed cell death of RGCs. In adult mice, however, p53-dependent changes in the rate of RGC death after exposure to 160 nmol of NMDA were observed. Four days after injection, p53+/+ and p53-/- mice exhibit statistically equivalent amounts of cell loss (p>0.1), while p53+/- mice have significantly attenuated cell loss (p<0.002), relative to the other groups. RGCs from NMDA-treated p53+/+ and p53-/- mice were analyzed further using immunohistochemistry to identify the cleavage products of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP), a known substrate for caspases. Cleaved PARP was found in p53+/+ and p53+/- eyes, but not in p53-/- mice.

CONCLUSIONS Developmental RGC programmed cell death does not require p53. Selective overstimulation of the glutamate-dependent NMDA-receptor in adult mice activates a p53-dependent pathway of death in RGCs. The requirement for p53 is not absolute, however, because mice lacking this gene are able to execute an alternative pathway of cell death. Examination of the cleavage of PARP, which is a substrate for caspases, suggests that the p53-dependent pathway utilizes these proteases, but the p53-independent pathway does not.