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Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2017 Dec 1;58(14):6113-6122. doi: 10.1167/iovs.17-22465.

Ghrelin Attenuates Retinal Neuronal Autophagy and Apoptosis in an Experimental Rat Glaucoma Model.

Author information

Institutes of Brain Science, State Key Laboratory of Medical Neurobiology, Collaborative Innovation Center for Brain Science, Fudan University, Shanghai, China.
Department of Ophthalmology at Eye & ENT Hospital, Shanghai Key Laboratory of Visual Impairment and Restoration, Fudan University, Shanghai, China.



Ghrelin, a natural ligand for the growth hormone secretagogue receptor type 1a (GHSR-1a), may protect retinal neurons against glaucomatous injury. We therefore characterized the underlying mechanism of the ghrelin/GHSR-1a-mediated neuroprotection with a rat chronic intraocular hypertension (COH) model.


The rat COH model was produced by blocking episcleral veins. A combination of immunohistochemistry, Western blot, TUNEL assay, and retrograde labeling of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) was used.


Elevation of intraocular pressure induced a significant increase in ghrelin and GHSR-1a expression in retinal cells, including RGCs and Müller cells. Western blot confirmed that the protein levels of ghrelin exhibited a transient upregulation at week 2 after surgery (G2w), while the GHSR-1a protein levels were maintained at high levels from G2w to G4w. In COH retinas, the ratio of LC3-II/LC-I and beclin1, two autophagy-related proteins, were increased from G1w to G4w, and the cleavage product of caspase3, an apoptotic executioner, was detected from G2w to G4w. Intraperitoneal injection of ghrelin significantly increased the number of surviving RGCs; inhibited the changes of LC3-II/LC-I, beclin1, and the cleavage products of caspase3; and reduced the number of TUNEL-positive cells in COH retinas. Ghrelin treatment also reversed the decreased levels of p-Akt and p-mTOR, upregulated GHSR-1a protein levels, and attenuated glial fibrillary acidic protein levels in COH retinas.


All these results suggest that ghrelin may provide neuroprotective effect in COH retinas through activating ghrelin/GHSR-1a system, which was mediated by inhibiting retinal autophagy, ganglion cell apoptosis, and Müller cell gliosis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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