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Exp Eye Res. 1998 Oct;67(4):403-10.

Putative role of calpain in the pathophysiology of experimental optic neuritis.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Medical University of South Carolina, 171 Ashley Avenue, Charleston, S.C., 29425, USA.


Since myelin proteins are degraded in autoimmune demyelinating diseases such as optic neuritis, proteinases are believed to participate in myelinolysis. Calpain (calcium activated neutral proteinase) degrades myelin proteins at physiological pH and is found in glial and inflammatory cells involved in demyelination. To examine the putative role of calpain in myelinolysis, the activity and expression (translational and transcriptional) of this enzyme and endogenous inhibitor, calpastatin were examined in optic nerves of Lewis rats with experimental allergic encephalomyelitis (EAE), an animal model of optic neuritis. Calpain activity was examined via Western blotting by measuring the extent of myelin protein degradation and calpain-specific fodrin proteolysis in optic nerves from controls versus rats with experimental optic neuritis. RT-PCR studies demonstrated no significant change in millicalpain, microcalpain, or calpastatin expression at the mRNA level in optic nerves from animals with experimental optic neuritis compared to controls. However, myelin associated glycoprotein (MAG) levels were decreased by 25.5% while calpain translational expression and calpain-autolyzed fodrin levels were increased by 72.1% and 462.8% respectively, in experimental optic neuritis compared to controls. Translational expression of calpastatin isoforms (80, 68 and 55 KD) was not significantly different in rats with experimental optic neuritis compared to controls. Thus, increased activity and translational expression of calpain in experimental optic neuritis suggests this proteinase may participate in the degradation of myelin and cytoskeletal proteins in demyelinating diseases such as optic neuritis.

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