Peptains block retinal ganglion cell death in animal models of ocular hypertension: implications for neuroprotection in glaucoma

Mi Hyun Nam, Dorota L. Stankowska, Gretchen A. Johnson, Rooban B. Nahomi, Mina B. Pantcheva, Ram H. Nagaraj

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Ocular hypertension is a significant risk factor for vision loss in glaucoma due to the death of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). This study investigated the effects of the antiapoptotic peptides peptain-1 and peptain-3a on RGC death in vitro in rat primary RGCs and in mouse models of ocular hypertension. Apoptosis was induced in primary rat RGCs by trophic factor deprivation for 48 h in the presence or absence of peptains. The effects of intravitreally injected peptains on RGC death were investigated in mice subjected to retinal ischemic/reperfusion (I/R) injury and elevated intraocular pressure (IOP). I/R injury was induced in mice by elevating the IOP to 120 mm Hg for 1 h, followed by rapid reperfusion. Ocular hypertension was induced in mice by injecting microbeads (MB) or silicone oil (SO) into the anterior chamber of the eye. Retinal flatmounts were immunostained with RGC and activated glial markers. Effects on anterograde axonal transport were determined by intravitreal injection of cholera toxin-B. Peptain-1 and peptain-3a inhibited neurotrophic factor deprivation-mediated RGC apoptosis by 29% and 35%, respectively. I/R injury caused 52% RGC loss, but peptain-1 and peptain-3a restricted RGC loss to 13% and 16%, respectively. MB and SO injections resulted in 31% and 36% loss in RGCs following 6 weeks and 4 weeks of IOP elevation, respectively. Peptain-1 and peptain-3a inhibited RGC death; the loss was only 4% and 12% in MB-injected eyes and 16% and 15% in SO-injected eyes, respectively. Anterograde transport was defective in eyes with ocular hypertension, but this defect was substantially ameliorated in peptain-injected eyes. Peptains suppressed ocular hypertension-mediated retinal glial activation. In summary, our results showed that peptains block RGC somal and axonal damage and neuroinflammation in animal models of glaucoma. We propose that peptains have the potential to be developed as therapeutics against neurodegeneration in glaucoma.

Original languageEnglish
Article number958
JournalCell Death and Disease
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2022


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