Hydrocortisone stimulates neurite outgrowth from mouse retinal explants by modulating macroglial activity.

Kimberly A. Toops, Cynthia Berlinicke, Donald J. Zack, Robert W. Nickells

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


There is mounting evidence that retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) require a complex milieu of trophic factors to enhance cell survival and axon regeneration after optic nerve injury. The authors' goal was to examine the contribution of components of a combination of hormones, growth factors, steroids, and small molecules to creating a regenerative environment and to determine if any of these components modulated macroglial behavior to aid in regeneration. Postnatal day 7 mouse retinal explants embedded in collagen were used as an in vitro model of neurite regeneration. Explants were treated with the culture supplements fetal bovine serum, N2, and G5 and a mixture of G5 and N2 components, designated enhanced N2 (EN2). Explants were evaluated for neurite outgrowth over 7 days in culture. The effects of each treatment were also evaluated on cultured RGCs purified by Thy1 immunopanning. Immunohistochemistry and qPCR analysis were used to evaluate differences in gene expression in the explants due to different treatments. EN2 stimulated significant neurite outgrowth from explants but not from purified RGCs. Elimination of hydrocortisone (HC) from EN2 reduced the mean neurites per explant by 37%. EN2-treated explants demonstrated increased expression of Gfap, Glul, Glt1, Cntf, Pedf, and VegfA compared with explants treated with EN2 without HC. Subsequent experiments showed that increased expression of Cntf and Glul was critical to the trophic effect of HC. These data suggest that the HC in EN2 indirectly contributed to neurite outgrowth by activating macroglia to produce neurotrophic and neuroprotective molecules.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2046-2061
Number of pages16
JournalInvestigative ophthalmology & visual science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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