Maculopapillary Bundle Degeneration in Optic Neuropathies

Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep. 2024 Jul;24(7):203-218. doi: 10.1007/s11910-024-01343-0. Epub 2024 Jun 4.


Purpose of review: Degeneration of the maculopapillary bundle (MPB) is a prominent feature in a spectrum of optic neuropathies. MPB-selective degeneration is seen in specific conditions, such as nutritional and toxic optic neuropathies, Leber hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON), and dominant optic atrophy (DOA). Despite their distinct etiologies and clinical presentations, which encompass variations in age of incidence and monocular or binocular onset, these disorders share a core molecular mechanism: compromised mitochondrial homeostasis. This disruption is characterized by dysfunctions in mitochondrial metabolism, biogenesis, and protein synthesis. This article provides a comprehensive understanding of the MPB's role in optic neuropathies, emphasizing the importance of mitochondrial mechanisms in the pathogenesis of these conditions.

Recent findings: Optical coherence tomography studies have characterized the retinal nerve fiber layer changes accompanying mitochondrial-affiliated optic neuropathies. Selective thinning of the temporal optic nerve head is preceded by thickening in early stages of these disorders which correlates with reductions in macular ganglion cell layer thinning and vascular atrophy. A recently proposed mechanism underpinning the selective atrophy of the MPB involves the positive feedback of reactive oxygen species generation as a common consequence of mitochondrial dysfunction. Additionally, new research has revealed that the MPB can undergo degeneration in the early stages of glaucoma, challenging the historically held belief that this area was not involved in this common optic neuropathy. A variety of anatomical risk factors influence the propensity of glaucomatous MPB degeneration, and cases present distinct patterns of ganglion cell degeneration that are distinct from those observed in mitochondria-associated diseases. This review synthesizes clinical and molecular research on primary MPB disorders, highlighting the commonalities and differences in their pathogenesis.

Key points (box): 1. Temporal degeneration of optic nerve fibers accompanied by cecocentral scotoma is a hallmark of maculopapillary bundle (MPB) degeneration. 2. Mechanisms of MPB degeneration commonly implicate mitochondrial dysfunction. 3. Recent research challenges the traditional belief that the MPB is uninvolved in glaucoma by showing degeneration in the early stages of this common optic neuropathy, yet with features distinct from other MPB-selective neuropathies. 4. Reactive oxygen species generation is a mechanism linking mitochondrial mechanisms of MPB-selective optic neuropathies, but in-vivo and in-vitro studies are needed to validate this hypothesis.

Keywords: Dominant optic atrophy; Glaucoma; Leber hereditary optic neuropathy; Maculopapillary bundle; Mitochondrial dysfunction; Optic neuropathies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Optic Nerve Diseases* / pathology