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Mol Vis. 2007 Apr 5;13:578-87.

Involvement of ER stress in retinal cell death.

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Department of Biofunctional Molecules, Gifu Pharmaceutical University, Gifu, Japan. <>



To clarify whether endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress is involved in retinal cell death, using cultured retinal ganglion cells (RGC-5, a rat ganglion cell line transformed with E1A virus), and transgenic mice ER stress-activated indicator (ERAI) mice carrying a human XBP1 and venus a variant of green fluorescent protein (GFP) fusion gene.


RGC-5 damage was induced by tunicamycin, and cell viability was measured by double nuclear staining (Hoechst 33342 and either YO-PRO-1 or propidium iodide). The expressions of glucose-regulated protein 78(GRP78)/BiP, the phosphorylated form of eukaryotic initiation factor 2alpha (p-eIF2alpha), and C/EBP-homologous (CHOP) protein after tunicamycin (in vitro or in vivo) or N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA; in vivo) treatment were measured using immunoblot or immunostaining. ERAI mice carrying the F-XBP1-DBD-venus expression gene were used to monitor ER-stress in vivo. Twenty-four hours after intravitreal injection of tunicamycin or NMDA, or after raising intraocular pressure (IOP), the retinal fluorescence intensity was visualized in anesthetized animals using an ophthalmoscope and in retinal flatmount or cross-section specimens using laser confocal microscopy.


Treatment with tunicamycin induced apoptotic cell death in RGC-5 and also induced production of ER stress-related proteins (BiP, the phosphorylated form of eIF2alpha, and CHOP protein). In vivo, tunicamycin induced retinal ganglion cell (RGC) loss and thinning of the inner plexiform layer, 7 days after intravitreal injection. In flatmounted retinas of ERAI mice, the fluorescence intensity arising from the XBP-1-venus fusion protein, indicating ER-stress activation, was increased at 24 h after tunicamycin, NMDA, or IOP elevation. In transverse cross-sections from ERAI mice, the fluorescence intensity was first increased in cells of the ganglion cell and inner plexiform layers at 12 and 24 h, respectively, after NMDA injection, and it was localized to ganglion and amacrine cells at 12 and 24 h, respectively, and to microglial cells at 72 h. BiP and CHOP were increased at 12 h after NMDA injection, and the increases persisted for the remainder of the 72 h observation period.


These data indicate that ER-stress may play a pivotal role in RGC death, whether induced by NMDA or IOP elevation.

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