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Am J Pathol. 2004 Jan;164(1):59-64.

Role of ubiquitin carboxy terminal hydrolase-L1 in neural cell apoptosis induced by ischemic retinal injury in vivo.

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Department of Degenerative Neurological Diseases, National Institute of Neuroscience, National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry, Kodaira, Tokyo, Japan.


Ubiquitin is thought to be a stress protein that plays an important role in protecting cells under stress conditions; however, its precise role is unclear. Ubiquitin expression level is controlled by the balance of ubiquitinating and deubiquitinating enzymes. To investigate the function of deubiquitinating enzymes on ischemia-induced neural cell apoptosis in vivo, we analyzed gracile axonal dystrophy (gad) mice with an exon deletion for ubiquitin carboxy terminal hydrolase-L1 (UCH-L1), a neuron-specific deubiquitinating enzyme. In wild-type mouse retina, light stimuli and ischemic retinal injury induced strong ubiquitin expression in the inner retina, and its expression pattern was similar to that of UCH-L1. On the other hand, gad mice showed reduced ubiquitin induction after light stimuli and ischemia, whereas expression levels of antiapoptotic (Bcl-2 and XIAP) and prosurvival (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) proteins that are normally degraded by an ubiquitin-proteasome pathway were significantly higher. Consistently, ischemia-induced caspase activity and neural cell apoptosis were suppressed approximately 70% in gad mice. These results demonstrate that UCH-L1 is involved in ubiquitin expression after stress stimuli, but excessive ubiquitin induction following ischemic injury may rather lead to neural cell apoptosis in vivo.

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