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Brain Res Mol Brain Res. 2003 Dec 12;120(1):30-7.

Rat retinal ganglion cells upregulate the pro-apoptotic BH3-only protein Bim after optic nerve transection.

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  • 1Department of Neuroscience, Units for Developmental Neuroscience, Uppsala University, S-75123 Uppsala, Sweden.


Increased expression of Bim, a pro-apoptotic member of the Bcl-2 family, has been shown to be critical for neuronal apoptosis. To study the involvement of Bim in injury-induced cell death in retina, Bim expression was studied in normal rat retina and in retina after optic nerve transection using quantitative RT-PCR and immunohistochemistry. As a complement to this, the apoptotic regulators Bax, Bcl-2, caspase-3 and phosphorylated c-jun were studied. The relative levels of Bim mRNA in retina were significantly higher 4 days after optic nerve transection and below normal levels at 14 days after transection. A parallel increase in the number of Bim-immunoreactive cells in the retinal ganglion cell layer could be seen. Bim-immunoreactivity localized to retrogradely True Blue-labeled retinal ganglion cells. The relative mRNA levels for both Bax and Bcl-2 were higher at 4 days after transection when compared to normal. Immunoreactivity for Bax, Bcl-2 as well as for caspase-3 and phosphorylated c-jun, indicative of cell death, localized to True Blue-identified retinal ganglion cells 4 days after injury. Bcl-2 immunoreactivity was also seen on other cells, most likely Müller glia cells. In addition, optic nerve transection caused an increase in Bim, Bax, and Bcl-2 mRNA levels in optic nerve and superior colliculus. Our results suggest that Bim is involved in injury-induced retinal ganglion cell death and indicate that the increase in Bim and Bax expression promote cell death of axotomized retinal ganglion cells whereas the elevation in Bcl-2 in retina may contribute to the control of the extent of apoptosis after the optic nerve transection.

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