We examined the histologic findings of optic nerve axons and changes in kinesin-1, which is involved in axonal flow, in N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA)-induced neurotoxicity in rats. Substantial degenerative changes visualized as black profiles and pale large axons were observed 72h after NMDA injection, but those degenerative changes were not apparent in axons 12 and 24h after injection. Morphometric analysis showed a significant, approximately 40% reduction in the number of axons 72h after NMDA injection. Immunohistochemical study showed that there was a recognizable loss of neurofilament-immunopositive dots, but myelin basic protein immunostaining was unchanged 72h after NMDA injection. Western blot analysis showed early elevation of kinesin-1 (KIF5B) protein levels in the retina 24 and 72h after NMDA injection. Conversely, significant decreases in KIF5B protein levels in the optic nerve were seen during the same time course. Immunohistochemical study also showed that there was a reduction in KIF5B immunoreactivity in axons, but neurofilament immunostaining was unchanged 24h after NMDA injection. These findings suggest that the intravitreal injection of NMDA causes neurofilament loss without myelin alteration in the early stage. The depletion of kinesin-1 precedes axonal degeneration of the optic nerve in NMDA-induced neurotoxicity.
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