Traumatic optic neuropathy (TON) is an acute injury of the optic nerve secondary to trauma. Loss of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) is a key pathological process in TON, yet mechanisms responsible for RGC death remain unclear. In a mouse model of TON, real-time noninvasive imaging revealed a dramatic increase in leukocyte rolling and adhesion in veins near the optic nerve (ON) head at 9 hours after ON injury. Although RGC dysfunction and loss were not detected at 24 hours after injury, massive leukocyte infiltration was observed in the superficial retina. These cells were identified as T cells, microglia/monocytes, and neutrophils but not B cells. CXCL10 is a chemokine that recruits leukocytes after binding to its receptor C-X-C chemokine receptor (CXCR) 3. The levels of CXCL10 and CXCR3 were markedly elevated in TON, and up-regulation of CXCL10 was mediated by STAT1/3. Deleting CXCR3 in leukocytes significantly reduced leukocyte recruitment, and prevented RGC death at 7 days after ON injury. Treatment with CXCR3 antagonist attenuated TON-induced RGC dysfunction and cell loss. In vitro co-culture of primary RGCs with leukocytes resulted in increased RGC apoptosis, which was exaggerated in the presence of CXCL10. These results indicate that leukocyte recruitment in retinal vessels near the ON head is an early event in TON and the CXCL10/CXCR3 axis has a critical role in recruiting leukocytes and inducing RGC death.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine