Unveiling Neuroprotection and Regeneration Mechanisms in Optic Nerve Injury: Insight from Neural Progenitor Cell Therapy with Focus on Vps35 and Syntaxin12

Cells. 2023 Oct 6;12(19):2412. doi: 10.3390/cells12192412.


Axonal degeneration resulting from optic nerve damage can lead to the progressive death of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), culminating in irreversible vision loss. We contrasted two methods for inducing optic nerve damage: optic nerve compression (ONCo) and optic nerve crush (ONCr). These were assessed for their respective merits in simulating traumatic optic neuropathies and neurodegeneration. We also administered neural progenitor cells (NPCs) into the subtenon space to validate their potential in mitigating optic nerve damage. Our findings indicate that both ONCo and ONCr successfully induced optic nerve damage, as shown by increases in ischemia and expression of genes linked to neuronal regeneration. Post NPC injection, recovery in the expression of neuronal regeneration-related genes was more pronounced in the ONCo model than in the ONCr model, while inflammation-related gene expression saw a better recovery in ONCr. In addition, the proteomic analysis of R28 cells in hypoxic conditions identified Vps35 and Syntaxin12 genes. Vps35 preserved the mitochondrial function in ONCo, while Syntaxin12 appeared to restrain inflammation via the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway in ONCr. NPCs managed to restore damaged RGCs by elevating neuroprotection factors and controlling inflammation through mitochondrial homeostasis and Wnt/β-catenin signaling in hypoxia-injured R28 cells and in both animal models. Our results suggest that ischemic injury and crush injury cause optic nerve damage via different mechanisms, which can be effectively simulated using ONCo and ONCr, respectively. Moreover, cell-based therapies such as NPCs may offer promising avenues for treating various optic neuropathies, including ischemic and crush injuries.

Keywords: Syntaxin12; Vps35; mitochondria; neural progenitor cells; optic nerve compression; optic nerve crush.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / metabolism
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Nerve Regeneration / genetics
  • Nerve Regeneration / physiology
  • Neuroprotection / genetics
  • Neuroprotection / physiology
  • Optic Nerve Injuries* / genetics
  • Proteomics
  • Rats
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / metabolism
  • Stem Cells / metabolism


  • vacuolar protein sorting 35, rat
  • syntaxin 12, rat

Grants and funding

These studies are supported by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, Republic of Korea (grant: HI16C1559) and the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) (grant: 2021R1A2C201052311). The funding body played no role in the design of the study, thecollection, analysis, and interpretation of data, or in writing the manuscript.