A broad perspective on the molecular regulation of retinal ganglion cell degeneration in glaucoma

Prog Brain Res. 2020;256(1):49-77. doi: 10.1016/bs.pbr.2020.05.027. Epub 2020 Jul 16.


Glaucoma is a complex neurodegenerative disease involving RGC axons, somas, and synapses at dendrites and axon terminals. Recent research advancements in the field have revealed a bigger picture of glaucomatous neurodegeneration that encompasses multiple stressors, multiple injury sites, multiple cell types, and multiple signaling pathways for asynchronous degeneration of RGCs during a chronic disease period. Optic nerve head is commonly viewed as the critical site of injury in glaucoma, where early injurious insults initiate distal and proximal signaling for axonal and somatic degeneration. Despite compartmentalized processes for degeneration of RGC axons and somas, there are intricate interactions between the two compartments and mechanistic overlaps between the molecular pathways that mediate degeneration in axonal and somatic compartments. This review summarizes the recent progress in the molecular understanding of RGC degeneration in glaucoma and highlights various etiological paths with biomechanical, metabolic, oxidative, and inflammatory components. Through this growing body of knowledge, the glaucoma community moves closer toward causative treatment of this blinding disease.

Keywords: Glaucoma; Molecular signaling; Neurodegeneration; Neuroinflammation; Optic nerve axons; Retinal ganglion cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Glaucoma* / immunology
  • Glaucoma* / metabolism
  • Glaucoma* / pathology
  • Humans
  • Inflammation* / immunology
  • Inflammation* / metabolism
  • Inflammation* / pathology
  • Nerve Degeneration* / immunology
  • Nerve Degeneration* / metabolism
  • Nerve Degeneration* / pathology
  • Optic Nerve* / immunology
  • Optic Nerve* / metabolism
  • Optic Nerve* / pathology
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells* / immunology
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells* / metabolism
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells* / pathology