Tumor necrosis factor alpha has an early protective effect on retinal ganglion cells after optic nerve crush.

Nickells Lab // Publications // Nov 19 2014

PubMed ID: 25407441

Author(s): Mac Nair CE, Fernandes KA, Schlamp CL, Libby RT, Nickells RW. Tumor necrosis factor alpha has an early protective effect on retinal ganglion cells after optic nerve crush. J Neuroinflammation. 2014 Nov 19;11:194. doi: 10.1186/s12974-014-0194-3. PMID 25407441

Journal: Journal Of Neuroinflammation, Volume 11, Nov 2014

BACKGROUND Glaucoma is an optic neuropathy that is characterized by the loss of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) initiated by damage to axons in the optic nerve. The degeneration and death of RGCs has been thought to occur in two waves. The first is axogenic, caused by direct insult to the axon. The second is somatic, and is thought to be caused by the production of inflammatory cytokines from the activated retinal innate immune cells. One of the cytokines consistently linked to glaucoma and RGC damage has been TNFα. Despite strong evidence implicating this protein in neurodegeneration, a direct injection of TNFα does not mimic the rapid loss of RGCs observed after acute optic nerve trauma or exposure to excitotoxins. This suggests that our understanding of TNFα signaling is incomplete.

METHODS RGC death was induced by optic nerve crush in mice. The role of TNFα in this process was examined by quantitative PCR of Tnfα gene expression, and quantification of cell loss in Tnfα (-/-) mice or in wild-type animals receiving an intraocular injection of exongenous TNFα either before or after crush. Signaling pathways downstream of TNFα were examined by immunolabeling for JUN protein accumulation or activation of EGFP expression in NFκB reporter mice.

RESULTS Optic nerve crush caused a modest increase in Tnfα gene expression, with kinetics similar to the activation of both macroglia and microglia. A pre-injection of TNFα attenuated ganglion cell loss after crush, while ganglion cell loss was more severe in Tnfα (-/-) mice. Conversely, over the long term, a single exposure to TNFα induced extrinsic apoptosis in RGCs. Müller cells responded to exogenous TNFα by accumulating JUN and activating NFκB.

CONCLUSION Early after optic nerve crush, TNFα appears to have a protective role for RGCs, which may be mediated through Müller cells.