Indexed on: 15 Feb '05Published on: 15 Feb '05Published in: Neuroscience
Superior colliculus (SC) ablation in neonatal rats results in a rapid increase in retinal ganglion cell (RGC) death. This injury-induced death is reduced by exogenous brain-derived neurotrophic factor or neurotrophin-4/5 (NT-4/5), but the protective effect of these molecules is transient, delaying but not preventing neuronal loss. We sought to discover why neurotrophins only temporarily reduce RGC death after target ablation, focusing on changes in neurotrophin receptor expression and possible changes in growth factor dependency. In unlesioned rats, receptor tyrosine kinase B (trkB) immunohistochemistry revealed no change in the number of trkB positive cells in the RGC layer 24 h after intraocular NT-4/5 injection. However, after SC lesions there were significantly less immunoreactive cells and, surprisingly, even fewer immunoreactive cells in NT-4/5 injected eyes. Semi-quantitative confocal analysis of immunofluorescence intensity revealed an increase in trkB staining in the RGC layer in unlesioned rats 24 h after NT-4/5 injection, whereas in SC-lesioned animals exposed to NT-4/5 there was a significant decrease in staining. To determine whether injured neonatal RGCs can switch their trophic requirements, different doses of ciliary neurotrophic factor were given intraocularly, either alone or combined with NT-4/5. We also tested an SC-derived chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan that has been reported to promote neonatal RGC survival. None of these interventions reduced lesion-induced RGC death 24 or 36 h after SC ablation. In summary, we show that developing RGCs do not shift their trophic dependence to other survival factors following injury; rather, the application of neurotrophins causes a down-regulation of the cognate trkB receptor, presumably altering the long-term responsiveness of neonatal RGCs to exogenous neurotrophins. These data highlight the difficulty in promoting long-term neuronal survival when using one-off administration of recombinant growth factors.