PURPOSE: The aim of this study was to evaluate early retinal damage after induction of ocular surface alkali burns and the protective effects of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) blockade. METHODS: Alkali injury was induced in mouse corneas by using 1 N NaOH. Retinal damage was assessed using a terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase 2'-deoxyuridine 5-triphosphate nick end labeling (TUNEL) assay, 15 minutes to 14 days postburn. Immune cell infiltration was assessed by CD45 immunolocalization. Retinal cytokines were quantified using the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay for interleukin (IL)1β, IL2, IL6, TNF-α, CCL5, and macrophage inflammatory protein-1α. Protection against retinal damage was attempted with a single dose of either anti-TNF-α antibody (infliximab, 6.25 mg/kg) or control immunoglobulin G (IgG), administered intraperitoneally 15 minutes after the burn was inflicted. Corneal injury was evaluated by using TUNEL and CD45 immunolocalization and by quantifying corneal neovascularization. RESULTS: There was significant damage to the retina within 24 hours of the corneal burn being inflicted. TUNEL+ labeling was present in 80% of the retinal ganglion cells, including a few CD45+ cells. There was a 10-fold increase in the retinal inflammatory cytokines in the study groups compared with that in controls. A single intraperitoneal dose of anti-TNF-α antibody, administered 15 minutes after the burn, markedly reduced retinal TUNEL+, CD45+ labeling, and inflammatory cytokine expression, compared with that in the controls. Additionally, TNF-α blockade caused a marked reduction in corneal neovascularization, and in cornea TUNEL and CD45 labeling, 5 days after the burn. CONCLUSIONS: This study shows that alkali corneal burns can induce significant retinal damage within 24 hours. A single dose of anti-TNF-α antibody, administered 15 minutes after inflicting the burn, provides significant retinal and corneal protection. This could lead to the discovery of novel therapies for patients with alkali injuries.