Degeneration and dysfunction of retinal neurons in acute ocular hypertensive rats: Involvement of calpains

Rie Suzuki, Takayuki Oka, Yoshiyuki Tamada, Thomas R. Shearer, Mitsuyoshi Azuma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Purpose: Retinal ischemic diseases primarily lead to damage of the inner retinal neurons. Electrophysiological studies also suggest impairment of the inner retinal neurons. Our recent studies with acute ocular hypertensive rats confirmed damage predominantly in the inner retinal layer along with the ganglion cell layer, changes that are ameliorated by the calpain inhibitor SNJ-1945. However, we do not know which specific neuronal cells in the inner retinal layer are damaged by calpains. Thus, the purpose of the present study was to identify specific calpain-damaged neuronal cells in the inner retina from acute ocular hypertensive rats. Methods: Intraocular pressure was elevated to 110mm Hg for 40min. One hour after ocular hypertension (OH), SNJ-1945 was administrated as a single oral dose of 50mg/kg. Retinal function was assessed by scotopic electroretinography (ERG). Histological degeneration was evaluated by hematoxylin and eosin, terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase (TdT)-mediated dUTP nick-end-labeling (TUNEL), and immunostaining in thin sections and flat mounts of the retina. Calpain activation was determined by proteolysis of the calpain substrate α-spectrin. Results: OH caused calpain activation, increased TUNEL-positive staining, decreased thickness of the inner nuclear layer (INL), and decreased amplitudes of the ERG a- and b-waves and oscillatory potentials (OPs). SNJ-1945 significantly inhibited calpain activation and the decrease in ERG values. Interestingly, the changes in the b-wave and OPs amplitudes were significantly correlated to changes in the thickness of the INL. In the inner retinal layer, the numbers of rod bipolar, cone-ON bipolar, and amacrine cells were decreased after OH. SNJ-1945 suppressed the loss of cone-ON bipolar and amacrine cells, but did not inhibit the loss of rod bipolar cells. We also observed increased glial fibrillary acid protein-positive staining in the Müller cells after OH and the treatment with SNJ-1945. Conclusions: Calpains may contribute to ischemic retinal dysfunction by causing the loss of cone-ON bipolar and amacrine cells and causing the activation of Müller cells. Calpain inhibitor SNJ-1945 may be a candidate compound for treatment of retinal ischemic disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)419-428
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Ocular Pharmacology and Therapeutics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jun 1 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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