Evidence that ganglion cells react to retinal detachment

Exp Eye Res. 2003 Mar;76(3):333-42. doi: 10.1016/s0014-4835(02)00305-6.


Growth associated protein 43 (GAP 43) is involved in synapse formation and it is expressed in the retina in a very specific pattern. Although GAP 43 is downregulated at the time of synapse formation, it can be re-expressed following injury such as axotomy or ischemia. Because of this we sought to characterize the expression of GAP 43 after retinal detachment (RD). Immunoblot, immunocytochemical and quantitative polymerase chain reaction (QPCR) techniques were used to assess the level of GAP 43 expression after experimental RD. GAP 43 was localized to three sublaminae of the inner plexiform layer of the normal retina. GAP 43 became upregulated in a subset of retinal ganglion cells following at least 7 days of RD. By immunoblot GAP 43 could be detected by 3 days. QPCR shows the upregulation of GAP 43 message by 6hr of detachment. To further characterize changes in ganglion cells, we used an antibody to neurofilament 70 and 200kDa (NF) proteins. Anti-NF labels horizontal cells, ganglion cell dendrites in the inner plexiform layer, and ganglion cell axons (fasicles) in the normal retina. Following detachment it is upregulated in horizontal cells and ganglion cells. When detached retina was double labelled with anti-GAP 43 and anti-NF, some cells were labelled with both markers, while others labelled with only one. We have previously shown that second order neurons respond to detachment; here we show that third order neurons are responding as well. Cellular remodelling of this type in response to detachment may explain the slow recovery of vision that often occurs after reattachment, or those changes that are often assumed to be permanent.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cats
  • GAP-43 Protein / genetics
  • GAP-43 Protein / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Neurofilament Proteins / metabolism
  • Neuronal Plasticity
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Retinal Detachment / metabolism*
  • Retinal Detachment / pathology
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / metabolism*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / physiology


  • GAP-43 Protein
  • Neurofilament Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger