Neuroprotective Effects of Transferrin in Experimental Glaucoma Models

Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Oct 22;23(21):12753. doi: 10.3390/ijms232112753.


Iron is essential for retinal metabolism, but an excess of ferrous iron causes oxidative stress. In glaucomatous eyes, retinal ganglion cell (RGC) death has been associated with dysregulation of iron homeostasis. Transferrin (TF) is an endogenous iron transporter that controls ocular iron levels. Intraocular administration of TF is neuroprotective in various models of retinal degeneration, preventing iron overload and reducing iron-induced oxidative stress. Herein, we assessed the protective effects of TF on RGC survival, using ex vivo rat retinal explants exposed to iron, NMDA-induced excitotoxicity, or CoCl2-induced hypoxia, and an in vivo rat model of ocular hypertension (OHT). TF significantly preserved RGCs against FeSO4-induced toxicity, NMDA-induced excitotoxicity, and CoCl2-induced hypoxia. TF protected RGCs from apoptosis, ferroptosis, and necrosis. In OHT rats, TF reduced RGC loss by about 70% compared to vehicle-treated animals and preserved about 47% of the axons. Finally, increased iron staining was shown in the retina of a glaucoma patient's eye as compared to non-glaucomatous eyes. These results indicate that TF can interfere with different cell-death mechanisms involved in glaucoma pathogenesis and demonstrate the ability of TF to protect RGCs exposed to elevated IOP. Altogether, these results suggest that TF is a promising treatment against glaucoma neuropathy.

Keywords: RGC; ferroptosis; glaucoma; iron; neuroprotection; ocular hypertension; retinal degeneration; transferrin.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Glaucoma* / metabolism
  • Hypoxia
  • Intraocular Pressure
  • Iron / metabolism
  • N-Methylaspartate
  • Neuroprotective Agents* / pharmacology
  • Neuroprotective Agents* / therapeutic use
  • Ocular Hypertension* / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Transferrin / pharmacology


  • cobaltous chloride
  • Iron
  • N-Methylaspartate
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Transferrin