Purpose: To determine if brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) has a neuroprotective effect against N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA)-induced cell death in retina.
Methods: NMDA was injected into the vitreous of rat eyes. NMDA-induced neuronal death was measured by morphometric analyses on cell counts of ganglion cell layer cells and thickness of retinal layers. Also, we conducted additional experiment using retrograde labeling with a fluorescent tracer (Fluoro-Gold) for exact counting of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). In addition, intravitreal glutamate levels were measured with the use of a high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) system.
Results: Morphometric analysis of retinal damage in NMDA-injected eyes showed that BDNF could protect inner retinal cells from glutamate receptor-mediated neuronal death. Also, counts of RGCs labeled with a fluorescent tracer showed that BDNF could protect RGCs from glutamate receptor-mediated neuronal death. Furthermore, measurements of intravitreal glutamate levels indicated an increase in this excitatory amino acid in the vitreous after NMDA injection.
Conclusions: Exogenous BDNF can protect inner retinal cells (possible RGCs and amacrine cells) from NMDA-induced neuronal death. However, increased intravitreal glutamate levels in response to NMDA-mediated neurotoxicity may augment retinal degeneration.