Citicoline and Retinal Ganglion Cells: Effects on Morphology and Function

Curr Neuropharmacol. 2018;16(7):919-932. doi: 10.2174/1570159X15666170703111729.


Background: Retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) are the nervous retinal elements which connect the visual receptors to the brain forming the nervous visual system. Functional and/or morphological involvement of RGCs occurs in several ocular and neurological disorders and therefore these cells are targeted in neuroprotective strategies. Cytidine 5-diphosphocholine or Citicoline is an endogenous compound that acts in the biosynthesis of phospholipids of cell membranes and increases neurotransmitters' levels in the Central Nervous System. Experimental studies suggested the neuromodulator effect and the protective role of Citicoline on RGCs. This review aims to present evidence of the effects of Citicoline in experimental models of RGCs degeneration and in human neurodegenerative disorders involving RGCs.

Methods: All published papers containing experimental or clinical studies about the effects of Citicoline on RGCs morphology and function were reviewed.

Results: In rodent retinal cultures and animal models, Citicoline induces antiapoptotic effects, increases the dopamine retinal level, and counteracts retinal nerve fibers layer thinning. Human studies in neurodegenerative visual pathologies such as glaucoma or non-arteritic ischemic neuropathy showed a reduction of the RGCs impairment after Citicoline administration. By reducing the RGCs' dysfunction, a better neural conduction along the post-retinal visual pathways with an improvement of the visual field defects was observed.

Conclusion: Citicoline, with a solid history of experimental and clinical studies, could be considered a very promising molecule for neuroprotective strategies in those pathologies (i.e. Glaucoma) in which morpho-functional changes of RGCc occurs.

Keywords: Retinal ganglion cells; citicoline; glaucoma; ischemic optic neuropathy; neurodegeneration; neuroprotection; pattern electroretinogram..

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytidine Diphosphate Choline / pharmacology
  • Cytidine Diphosphate Choline / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / drug therapy
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / pathology
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / physiopathology
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology
  • Neuroprotective Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / drug effects*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / pathology
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / physiology


  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Cytidine Diphosphate Choline