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PLoS One. 2012;7(2):e31991. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0031991. Epub 2012 Feb 23.

Genetic ablation of Pannexin1 protects retinal neurons from ischemic injury.

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Department of Ophthalmology, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, Florida, United States of America.


Pannexin1 (Panx1) forms large nonselective membrane channel that is implicated in paracrine and inflammatory signaling. In vitro experiments suggested that Panx1 could play a key role in ischemic death of hippocampal neurons. Since retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) express high levels of Panx1 and are susceptible to ischemic induced injury, we hypothesized that Panx1 contributes to rapid and selective loss of these neurons in ischemia. To test this hypothesis, we induced experimental retinal ischemia followed by reperfusion in live animals with the Panx1 channel genetically ablated either in the entire mouse (Panx1 KO), or only in neurons using the conditional knockout (Panx1 CKO) technology. Here we report that two distinct neurotoxic processes are induced in RGCs by ischemia in the wild type mice but are inactivated in Panx1KO and Panx1 CKO animals. First, the post-ischemic permeation of RGC plasma membranes is suppressed, as assessed by dye transfer and calcium imaging assays ex vivo and in vitro. Second, the inflammasome-mediated activation of caspase-1 and the production of interleukin-1β in the Panx1 KO retinas are inhibited. Our findings indicate that post-ischemic neurotoxicity in the retina is mediated by previously uncharacterized pathways, which involve neuronal Panx1 and are intrinsic to RGCs. Thus, our work presents the in vivo evidence for neurotoxicity elicited by neuronal Panx1, and identifies this channel as a new therapeutic target in ischemic pathologies.

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