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PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e57557. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0057557. Epub 2013 Feb 25.

Enhanced insight into the autoimmune component of glaucoma: IgG autoantibody accumulation and pro-inflammatory conditions in human glaucomatous retina.

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Experimental Ophthalmology, Department of Ophthalmology, University Medical Center Mainz, Germany.



There is accumulating evidence that autoimmune components, such as autoantibodies and autoantibody depositions, play a role in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimeŕs disease or Multiple Sclerosis. Due to alterations of autoantibody patterns in sera and aqueous humor, an autoimmune component is also assumed in the pathogenesis of glaucoma, a common reason for irreversible blindness worldwide. So far there has been no convincing evidence that autoantibodies are accumulated in the retina of glaucoma patients and that the local immune homeostasis might be affected.


Six human glaucomatous donor eyes and nine samples from donors with no recorded ocular disease were included. Antibody microarrays were used to examine the patterns of pro-inflammatory proteins and complement proteins. Analysis of TNF-α and interleukin levels revealed a slight up-regulation exclusively in the glaucomatous group, while complement protein levels were not altered. IgG autoantibody accumulations and/or cellular components were determined by immunohistology (n = 4 per group). A significantly reduced number of retinal ganglion cells was found in the glaucomatous group (healthy: 104±7 nuclei/mm, glaucoma: 67±9 nuclei/mm; p = 0.0007). Cell loss was accompanied by strong retinal IgG autoantibody accumulations, which were at least twice as high as in healthy subjects (healthy: 5.0±0.5 IgG deposits/100 cells, glaucoma: 9.4±1.9 IgG deposits/100 cells; p = 0.004). CD27(+) cells and CD27(+)/IgG(+) plasma cells were observed in all glaucomatous subjects, but not in controls.


This work provides serious evidence for the occurrence of IgG antibody deposition and plasma cells in human glaucomatous retina. Moreover, the results suggest that these IgG deposits occurred in a pro-inflammatory environment which seems to be maintained locally by immune-competent cells like microglia. Thereby, glaucoma features an immunological involvement comparable to other neurodegenerative diseases, but also shows a multifactorial pathomechanism, which diverges and might be linked to the specific nature of both eye and retina.

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