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PLoS One. 2014 Jan 2;9(1):e84387. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0084387. eCollection 2014.

Systemic simvastatin rescues retinal ganglion cells from optic nerve injury possibly through suppression of astroglial NF-κB activation.

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Department of Ophthalmology, Osaka Medical College, Osaka, Japan.
Department of Pharmacology, Osaka Medical College, Osaka, Japan.
Molecular Pharmacology, Department of Biofunctional Evaluation, Gifu Pharmaceutical University, Gifu, Japan.


Neuroinflammation is involved in the death of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) after optic nerve injury. The purpose of this study was to determine whether systemic simvastatin can suppress neuroinflammation in the optic nerve and rescue RGCs after the optic nerve is crushed. Simvastatin or its vehicle was given through an osmotic minipump beginning one week prior to the crushing. Immunohistochemistry and real-time PCR were used to determine the degree of neuroinflammation on day 3 after the crushing. The density of RGCs was determined in Tuj-1 stained retinal flat mounts on day 7. The effect of simvastain on the TNF-α-induced NF-κB activation was determined in cultured optic nerve astrocytes. On day 3, CD68-positive cells, most likely microglia/macrophages, were accumulated at the crushed site. Phosphorylated NF-κB was detected in some astrocytes at the border of the lesion where the immunoreactivity to MCP-1 was intensified. There was an increase in the mRNA levels of the CD68 (11.4-fold), MCP-1 (22.6-fold), ET-1 (2.3-fold), GFAP (1.6-fold), TNF-α (7.0-fold), and iNOS (14.8-fold) genes on day 3. Systemic simvastatin significantly reduced these changes. The mean ± SD number of RGCs was 1816.3±232.6/mm(2) (n = 6) in the sham controls which was significantly reduced to 831.4±202.5/mm(2) (n = 9) on day 7 after the optic nerve was crushed. This reduction was significantly suppressed to 1169.2±201.3/mm(2) (P = 0.01, Scheffe; n = 9) after systemic simvastatin. Simvastatin (1.0 µM) significantly reduced the TNF-α-induced NF-κB activation in cultured optic nerve astrocytes. We conclude that systemic simvastatin can reduce the death of RGCs induced by crushing the optic nerve possibly by suppressing astroglial NF-κB activation.

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