Several types of insult cause up-regulation of neurotrophic factors and their receptors in the retina resulting in decreased photoreceptor cell death from subsequent injury. This phenomenon is more prominent in rats than in mice and neurotrophic factors are more efficacious in rats than mice. If up-regulation of neurotrophic factor receptors on photoreceptor cells early in the course of degenerations contributes to neurotrophic factor survival-promoting activity, it may also increase the ability to detect neurotrophic factor-induced signaling in photoreceptors, particularly in rats. In this study, these hypotheses were investigated by performing immunohistochemical staining for the phosphorylated form of extracellular receptor kinase (pERK) or c-fos after intravitreous injection of neurotrophic factors in wild type rats or mice, or those with inherited retinal degenerations. In both rats and mice either early or late in the course of degeneration, or in wild type animals, intravitreous injection of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, ciliary neurotrophic factor, or fibroblast growth factor-2 caused immunostaining for pERK and c-fos in cells of the inner retina, particularly Müller cells, but not in photoreceptors. These data add to the mounting evidence suggesting that neurotrophic factors act indirectly through Müller cells to promote photoreceptor survival.
(C) 2001 Academic Press.