Rat optic nerve (ON) transection leads to mainly apoptotic cell death of about 85% of the retinal ganglion cell (RGC) population within 14 days after lesion. In the present study, we tested the effect of adenovirally delivered CNTF (Ad-CNTF) on survival and regeneration of axotomized adult RGCs in vivo. Single intravitreal Ad-CNTF injection led to stable CNTF mRNA and protein expression for at least 18 days and significantly enhanced RGC survival by 155% when compared to control animals 14 days after ON transection. ON stump application of Ad-CNTF also resulted in an increased number of surviving RGCs. Ad-CNTF injection led to better preservation of intraretinal RGC axons but did not support regeneration of axotomized RGCs into a peripheral nerve graft. Thus, adenovirus-mediated neurotrophic factor supply is a suitable approach for reducing axotomy-induced RGC death in vivo and may constitute a relevant strategy for clinical treatment of traumatic brain injury.
Copyright 2000 Academic Press.