Author(s): Oikawa K, Teixeira LBC, Keikhosravi A, Eliceiri KW, McLellan GJ. Microstructure and resident cell-types of the feline optic nerve head resemble that of humans. Exp Eye Res. 2021 Jan;202:108315. doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2020.108315. Epub 2020 Oct 19. PMID 33091431
The lamina cribrosa (LC) region of the optic nerve head (ONH) is considered a primary site for glaucomatous damage. In humans, biology of this region reflects complex interactions between retinal ganglion cell (RGC) axons and other resident ONH cell-types including astrocytes, lamina cribrosa cells, microglia and oligodendrocytes, as well as ONH microvasculature and collagenous LC beams. However, species differences in the microanatomy of this region could profoundly impact efforts to model glaucoma pathobiology in a research setting. In this study, we characterized resident cell-types, ECM composition and ultrastructure in relation to microanatomy of the ONH in adult domestic cats (Felis catus). Longitudinal and transverse cryosections of ONH tissues were immunolabeled with astrocyte, microglia/macrophage, oligodendrocyte, LC cell and vascular endothelial cell markers. Collagen fiber structure of the LC was visualized by second harmonic generation (SHG) with multiphoton microscopy. Fibrous astrocytes form glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP)-positive glial columns in the pre-laminar region, and cover the collagenous plates of the LC region in lamellae oriented perpendicular to the axons. GFAP-negative and alpha-smooth muscle actin-positive LC cells were identified in the feline ONH. IBA-1 positive immune cells and von Willebrand factor-positive blood vessel endothelial cells are also identifiable throughout the feline ONH. As in humans, myelination commences with a population of oligodendrocytes in the retro-laminar region of the feline ONH. Transmission electron microscopy confirmed the presence of capillaries and LC cells that extend thin processes in the core of the collagenous LC beams. In conclusion, the feline ONH closely recapitulates the complexity of the ONH of humans and non-human primates, with diverse ONH cell-types and a robust collagenous LC, within the beams of which, LC cells and capillaries reside. Thus, studies in a feline inherited glaucoma model have the potential to play a key role in enhancing our understanding of ONH cellular and molecular processes in glaucomatous optic neuropathy.