Morphology of astrocytes in a glaucomatous optic nerve


Lye-Barthel M, Sun D, Jakobs TC. Morphology of astrocytes in a glaucomatous optic nerve. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2013;54(2):909-17.

Date Published:

2013 Feb 01


PURPOSE: To establish the morphologic changes of astrocytes in the glial lamina of glaucomatous mice. METHODS: A strain of mice that expresses GFP in individual astrocytes (hGFAPpr-GFP) was crossed into the DBA/2J strain that develops glaucoma. In the resulting strain (D2.hGFAPpr-GFP) we assessed the severity of glaucoma by staining the retina for neurofilaments and counting the neurons of the retinal ganglion cell layer. We observed the morphology of astrocytes in the glial lamina of the optic nerves. RESULTS: D2.hGFAPpr-GFP mice developed glaucoma in an age-dependent manner. Astrocytes in the glial lamina showed morphologic changes that correlated with the severity of glaucoma. The cells showed thickening of processes from 1.3 ± 0.28 μm in nondiseased animals to 1.71 ± 0.46 μm in eyes with moderate glaucoma and 2.1 ± 0.42 μm in those with severe glaucoma. Their spatial coverage, as determined by their convex polygon area, was reduced in eyes with severe glaucoma. The astrocytes in severely glaucomatous optic nerves also showed simplification of their processes. In 6-month-old mice with no obvious signs of degeneration in the retina, we found astrocytes with appendages growing out of primary astrocyte processes into the axon bundles. This localized hypertrophy of processes was never observed in the hGFAPpr-GFP strain. CONCLUSIONS: Confirming results after optic nerve crush, astrocytes in glaucomatous optic nerves had thickened and simplified processes, and reduced spatial coverage. We also found evidence of localized sprouting of new processes in early stages of the disease, before detectable changes in ganglion cell number.

Last updated on 12/10/2018