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Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2004 Dec;45(12):4477-83.

Aquaporin-4 gene disruption in mice protects against impaired retinal function and cell death after ischemia.

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Department of Medicine, Cardiovascular Research Institute, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94143-0521, USA.



Water channel aquaporin (AQP)-4 is expressed in Muller cells in retina, which are similar to astroglial cells in the central nervous system, where AQP4 deletion protects against cytotoxic brain edema after cerebral ischemia. A transient ischemia-reperfusion model was used to determine whether AQP4 deletion in mice protects the retina.


Retinal function and morphology were assessed in wild-type versus AQP4-deficient mice after ischemic damage produced by a 45- to 60-minute elevation of intraocular pressure to 120 mm Hg. Retinal function was assessed by electroretinography, and retinal structure by light microscopy. Extracellular space (ECS) size in fluorescently stained retinal slices was assessed by fluorescence recovery after photobleaching.


Retinal function and cell survival were significantly improved in AQP4-deficient mice in both inbred (C57/bl6) and outbred (CD1) genetic backgrounds. By electroretinography, b-wave amplitude was reduced by 75% to 83% at 1 to 4 days after ischemia in wild-type mice versus 48% to 51% in AQP4-null CD1 mice. Reductions were 53% to 72% versus <34% in C57/bl6 mice. Retinal structure and cell count were preserved in AQP4-null mice, particularly in the inner nuclear and plexiform layers of the retina, where Müller cells are concentrated. At 4 days after ischemia, inner retinal thickness was thinned by 43% in wild-type mice versus 11% in AQP4-null mice. Several mechanisms for retinal protection were investigated, including ECS expansion, reduced early swelling, and altered Kir4.1 K(+) channel expression.


AQP4 deletion in mice is neuroprotective in a transient ischemia model of retinal injury, suggesting the possible use of AQP4 inhibitors in retinal vascular occlusive and ischemic diseases.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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