Neurotrophin signaling and glaucoma

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Purpose. To review the literature and recent experimental data suggesting that neurotrophic signaling is necessary for retinal ganglion cell (RGC) development and maintenance, and that perturbation of such signaling may he at least partially responsible for the apoptotic cell death associated with glaucoma, Summary. Nearly 100 years ago it was suggested that neurons require exogenous factors (now called neurotrophins) for survival. In many situations, withdrawal of such factors leads to cell death by apoptosis. Increasing evidence is accumulating that RGCs die by apoptosis in both animal models and human glaucoma. Transgenic experiments indicate that mice that overexpress the "anti-apoptosis" gene Bcl-2 in their RGCs demonstrate greater survival of RGCs during development, presumably due to reduced programmed cell death, and also demonstrate relative resistance to optic nerve transection. Since axonal transport is often blockexl in glaucoma, it is reasonable to speculate that in glaucoma there may be interruption of neurotrophic signaling from target cells to the RGC cell body. Recent evidence suggests that localization of some neurotrophin receptors is altered in glaucoma. Conclusions. If perturbation of neurotrophic signaling is responsible for RGC death in glaucoma, development of methods to restore normal signaling or to provide exogenous neurotrophic agents, either pharmacologically or by gene therapy, may lead to new neuroprotective approaches for the treatment of glaucoma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1997


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology

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