Introduction: Alterations in neuron-glia signaling are implicated in glaucoma, a neurodegenerative disease characterized by retinal ganglion cell (RGC) death. Pigment epithelium derived factor (PEDF) is a secreted protein with potential neuroprotective qualities in retinal disease, including chronic ocular hypertension. Here we sought to determine whether moderate, short-term elevations in IOP alter PEDF signaling and whether pressure-induced PEDF signaling directly impacts RGC apoptosis.
Methods: In retina from naïve mice and mice with unilateral, microbead-induced glaucoma, we examined expression and cell type-specific localization of PEDF and its receptor (PEDF-R), using quantitative PCR and immunohistochemistry. Using primary cultures of purified RGCs and Müller cells, we examined cell type-specific expression of PEDF in response to 48 hours of elevated hydrostatic pressure, using multiplex ELISA and immunocytochemistry. We also measured pressure-induced apoptosis of RGCs in the presence or absence of atglistatin, a potent and selective inhibitor of PEDF-R, and recombinant PEDF, using TUNEL assays.
Results: PEDF and PEDF-R are constitutively expressed in naïve retina, primarily in the ganglion cell and nerve fiber layers. Elevated IOP increases PEDF and PEDF-R expression, particularly associated with RGCs and Müller cells. Elevated pressure in vitro increased PEDF secretion by 6-fold in RGCs and trended towards an increase in expression by Müller cells, as compared to ambient pressure. This was accompanied by changes in the subcellular localization of PEDF-R in both cell types. Inhibition of PEDF signaling with atglistatin increased pressure-induced apoptosis in RGCs and treatment with recombinant PEDF inhibited pressure-induced apoptosis, both in a dose-dependent manner.
Conclusion: Our findings suggest that moderate, short-term elevations in IOP promote PEDF signaling via up-regulation of both PEDF and PEDF-R. Based on in vivo and in vitro studies, this PEDF signaling likely arises from both Müller cells and RGCs, and has the potential to directly inhibit RGC apoptosis.
Keywords: Apoptosis; Glaucoma; Glia; Microbead occlusion model; Neuroinflammation; Pigmented epithelial growth factor; Retinal ganglion cell.