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Cell Death Differ. 2013 Feb;20(2):270-80. doi: 10.1038/cdd.2012.122. Epub 2012 Sep 14.

Inhibition of ASK1-p38 pathway prevents neural cell death following optic nerve injury.

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Visual Research Project, Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Medical Science, Tokyo, Japan.


Optic nerve injury (ONI) induces retinal ganglion cell (RGC) death and optic nerve atrophy that lead to visual loss. Apoptosis signal-regulating kinase 1 (ASK1) is an evolutionarily conserved mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) kinase kinase and has an important role in stress-induced RGC apoptosis. In this study, we found that ONI-induced p38 activation and RGC loss were suppressed in ASK1-deficient mice. Sequential in vivo retinal imaging revealed that post-ONI treatment with a p38 inhibitor into the eyeball was effective for RGC protection. ONI-induced monocyte chemotactic protein-1 production in RGCs and microglial accumulation around RGCs were suppressed in ASK1-deficient mice. In addition, the productions of tumor necrosis factor and inducible nitric oxide synthase in microglia were decreased when the ASK1-p38 pathway was blocked. These results suggest that ASK1 activation in both neural and glial cells is involved in neural cell death, and that pharmacological interruption of ASK1-p38 pathways could be beneficial in the treatment of ONI.

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