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Int J Mol Sci. 2019 Nov 15;20(22). pii: E5733. doi: 10.3390/ijms20225733.

Neuronal Death in the Contralateral Un-Injured Retina after Unilateral Axotomy: Role of Microglial Cells.

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Group de Oftalmología Experimental, Instituto Murciano de Investigación Biosanitaria Virgen de la Arrixaca (IMIB-Arrixaca), 30120 Murcia, Spain.
Departamento de Oftalmología, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de Murcia, 30100 Murcia, Spain.


For years it has been known that unilateral optic nerve lesions induce a bilateral response that causes an inflammatory and microglial response in the contralateral un-injured retinas. Whether this contralateral response involves retinal ganglion cell (RGC) loss is still unknown. We have analyzed the population of RGCs and the expression of several genes in both retinas of pigmented mice after a unilateral axotomy performed close to the optic nerve head (0.5 mm), or the furthest away that the optic nerve can be accessed intraorbitally in mice (2 mm). In both retinas, RGC-specific genes were down-regulated, whereas caspase 3 was up-regulated. In the contralateral retinas, there was a significant loss of 15% of RGCs that did not progress further and that occurred earlier when the axotomy was performed at 2 mm, that is, closer to the contralateral retina. Finally, the systemic treatment with minocycline, a tetracycline antibiotic that selectively inhibits microglial cells, or with meloxicam, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, rescued RGCs in the contralateral but not in the injured retina. In conclusion, a unilateral optic nerve axotomy triggers a bilateral response that kills RGCs in the un-injured retina, a death that is controlled by anti-inflammatory and anti-microglial treatments. Thus, contralateral retinas should not be used as controls.


bilateral response; meloxicam; minocycline; optic nerve crush; retinal ganglion cells (RGC); visual system

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