Purpose: Intravitreal injection of ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) is known to induce glial intermediate filament protein (GFAP) expression in retinal Müller cells. Because CNTF binding can activate multiple signaling kinases, we have examined the involvement of JAK/STAT pathway in GFAP induction in Müller cells.
Methods: CNTF was injected intravitreally into mouse eyes. Immunocytochemistry and immunoblotting were used to study GFAP and STAT3-p (phosphorylated STAT3) levels either in mouse eyes, retinal explant cultures or in a Müller cell line, rMC-1.
Results: In protein extracts of CNTF-injected eyes, retinal explants and the Müller cells, there was a substantial increase in STAT3-p level. Immunocytochemistry showed that STAT3-p was now present in many cell bodies in the INL and the GCL. To prove that CNTF acted via the JAK-STAT pathway, rMC-1 cells were transfected with a dominant-negative STAT3 mutant prior to treatment with CNTF. In the immunoblots of transfected cells, there was decrease in GFAP level.
Conclusions: The results establish that CNTF can induce GFAP expression in retinal Müller cells through the JAK/STAT signaling pathway.