Pressure-induced changes in astrocyte GFAP, actin, and nuclear morphology in mouse optic nerve

Yik Tung Tracy Ling, Mary E. Pease, Joan L. Jefferys, Elizabeth C. Kimball, Harry A. Quigley, Thao D. Nguyen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


PURPOSE. To conduct quantitative analysis of astrocytic glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), actin and nuclei distribution in mouse optic nerve (ON) and investigate changes in the measured features after 3 days of ocular hypertension (OHT). METHOD. Serial cross-sections of 3-day microbead-induced OHT and control ONs were fluorescently labelled and imaged using confocal microscope. Eighteen structural features were measured from the acquired images, including GFAP coverage, actin area fraction, process thickness, and aspect ratio of cell nucleus. The measured features were analyzed for variations with axial locations along ON and radial zones transverse to ON, as well as for the correlations with degree of intraocular pressure (IOP) change. RESULTS. The most significant changes in structural features after 3-day OHT occurred in the unmyelinated ON region (R1), and the changes were greater with greater IOP elevation. Although the GFAP, actin, axonal, and ON areas all increased in 3-day OHT ONs in R1 (P ≤ 0.004 for all), the area fraction of GFAP actually decreased (P = 0.02), the actin area fraction was stable and individual axon compartments were unchanged in size. Within R1, the number of nuclear clusters increased (P < 0.001), but the mean size of nuclear clusters was smaller (P = 0.02) and the clusters became rounder (P < 0.001). In all cross-sections of control ONs, astrocytic processes were thickest in the rim zone compared with the central and peripheral zones (P ≤ 0.002 for both), whereas the overall process width in R1 decreased after 3 days of OHT (P <0.001). CONCLUSIONS. The changes in structure elucidated IOP-generated alterations that underlie astrocyte mechanotranslational responses relevant to glaucoma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number14
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number11
StatePublished - Sep 2020


  • Actin
  • Astrocytes
  • GFAP
  • IOP elevation
  • Nucleus
  • Optic nerve head

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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