Axon-mediated gene transfer of retinal ganglion cells in vivo

J Neurobiol. 1997 Jan;32(1):111-22. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1097-4695(199701)32:1<111::aid-neu10>;2-n.


Modification of the intracellular functions of mature neurons through specific gene transfer has many potential applications. Here we present a new methodology for the successful transfection of retinal ganglion cells by administration of plasmid at the cut end of the optic nerve, or at their intact axon terminals; the latter is significantly more efficient. Plasmids contained either the SV40 promoter linked to the luciferase gene, or the CMV or RSV promoter linked to the lacZ gene. Assays for both reporter genes demonstrated significant expression of exogenous DNA in the retina for at least 10 days after retrograde transport. Duration of expression was extended to 20 days or more (duration of the experiment) when plasmid DNA was condensed with poly(L-lysine). beta-Galactosidase analysis revealed transfection of ganglion cells in high numbers. Such an approach for gene delivery to specific subpopulations of neurons might be useful in studies of molecular functions in vivo and as an experimental therapeutic strategy to extend survival and restore their function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Gene Transfer Techniques*
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Luciferases / genetics
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Plasmids
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / physiology*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / ultrastructure
  • Superior Colliculi / cytology
  • Transfection
  • beta-Galactosidase / genetics


  • Luciferases
  • beta-Galactosidase