Studies of presumed apoptosis in human primary open-angle glaucoma

L. A. Kerrigan, M. E. Pease, W. R. Green, H. A. Quigley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose. To determine whether retinal ganglion cell death in primary open-angle occurs by apoptosis, judged by one histochemical method. Methods. Ten eyes of 10 persons with documented POAG obtained from eye banks and the Wilmer Eye Pathology Laboratory were compared to 11 age, race and gender-matched controls. Staging of glaucoma severity was performed by histologic optic nerve examination. Fixed, paraffin-embedded retinal tissue was sectioned parallel or perpendicular to the vitreoretinal surface and assayed by the TUNEL method to detect internucleosomal DNA fragmentation that is characteristic of apoptosis. Results. Masked reading of slides by 2 observers demonstrated that cells in the ganglion cell layer with a positive TUNEL reaction were observed in 4 out of 10 glaucoma cases as compared to 3 out of 11 control cases. The total number of cells examined in the glaucoma and control eyes were approximately equal (65,706 glaucoma; 83,326 control). The rate of positive ganglion cell layer cells in the glaucoma cases, 1.07 x 10-4, was 1.78 times greater than the control rate; however, the 95% confidence intervals of glaucoma and control rates overlapped. Conclusion. We found a suggested but not significantly higher rate of death in cells of the ganglion cell layer compatible with apoptosis in POAG; however, the low rate of cell death presently precludes confirmation of this finding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S826
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 15 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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