Accelerated retinal ganglion cell death in mice deficient in the Sigma-1 receptor.

PubMed ID: 21541278

Author(s): Mavlyutov TA, Nickells RW, Guo LW. Accelerated retinal ganglion cell death in mice deficient in the Sigma-1 receptor. Mol Vis. 2011 Apr 26;17:1034-43. PMID 21541278

Journal: Molecular Vision, Volume 17, Apr 2011

PURPOSE The sigma-1 receptor (σR1), a ligand-operated chaperone, has been inferred to be neuroprotective in previous studies using σR1 ligands. The σR1 specificity of the protective function, however, has yet to be firmly established, due to the existence of non-σR1 targets of the ligands. Here, we used the σR1-knockout mouse (Sigmar1(-/-)) to demonstrate unambiguously the role of the σR1 in protecting the retinal ganglion cells against degeneration after acute damage to the optic nerve.

METHODS Retinal σR binding sites were labeled with radioiodinated σR ligands and analyzed by autoradiography. Localization of the σR1 was performed by indirect immunofluorescence on frozen retinal sections. Retinal ganglion cell death was induced by acute optic nerve crush in wild-type and Sigmar1(-/-) mice. Surviving cells in the ganglion cell layer were counted on Nissl-stained retinal whole mounts 7 days after the crush surgery.

RESULTS Photoaffinity labeling indicated the presence of the σR1 in the retina, in concentrations equivalent to those in liver tissue. Immunolabeling detected this receptor in cells of both the ganglion cell layer and the photoreceptor cell layer in wild-type retinas. Quantification of cells remaining after optic nerve crush showed that 86.8±7.9% cells remained in the wild-type ganglion cell layer, but only 68.3±3.4% survived in the Sigmar1(-/-), demonstrating a significant difference between the wild-type and the Sigmar1(-/-) in crush-induced ganglion cell loss.

CONCLUSIONS Our data indicated faster retinal ganglion cell death in Sigmar1(-/-) than in wild-type mice under the stresses caused by optic nerve crush, providing direct evidence for a role of the σR1 in alleviating retinal degeneration. This conclusion is consistent with the previous pharmacological studies using σR1 agonists. Thus, our study supports the idea that the σR1 is a promising therapeutic target for neurodegenerative retinal diseases, such as glaucoma.