Evidence for glaucoma-induced horizontal cell alterations in the human retina

Ger J Ophthalmol. 1996 Nov;5(6):378-85.


In this study we investigated changes to horizontal cells in human retinae affected by glaucoma. Glaucoma is characterized by raised intraocular pressure and is responsible for retinal ganglion cell and, possibly, photoreceptor degeneration. It was therefore assumed that horizontal cells might also be affected. The carbocyanine dye DiI was placed at discrete points on fixed, whole-mounted retinae obtained from normal and glaucomatous patients. After allowing 6-24 weeks for intramembranous diffusion within the lipid layers of the nerve cells and, therefore, fluorescent labeling, we measured horizontal cell soma and dendritic field sizes. Selected cells were then embedded in Araldite and cut at 4 microns. Horizontal cells in glaucomatous eyes appeared larger and had a granulated outline as compared with cells from normal retinae. Analysis of the mean cell soma size indicated that cells were 26% larger in the glaucomatous retinae and that this increase was significantly different from that seen in normal retinae (P < 0.05). The dendritic field size was unaffected (P > 0.05). As seen in cross section there was a clear loss of photoreceptor outer segments, and shrunken silhouettes of photoreceptor inner segments with pyknotic nuclei were observed. It is proposed that the increase in some size is indicative of horizontal cell responses that are likely to culminate in degeneration as a result of heightened intraocular pressure. In addition, this paper provides further evidence that photoreceptors are affected by advanced glaucoma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carbocyanines / metabolism
  • Cell Size
  • Dendrites / metabolism
  • Dendrites / pathology
  • Fluorescent Dyes / metabolism
  • Glaucoma / complications*
  • Humans
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / pathology*
  • Photoreceptor Cells / pathology*
  • Retinal Degeneration / etiology*
  • Retinal Degeneration / pathology


  • Carbocyanines
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • 3,3'-dioctadecylindocarbocyanine