Date Published:2016 Dec 15
Glaucoma is a multifactorial disease resulting in the death of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) and irreversible blindness. Glaucoma-associated RGC death depends on the proapoptotic and proinflammatory activity of membrane-bound Fas ligand (mFasL). In contrast to mFasL, the natural cleavage product, soluble Fas ligand (sFasL) inhibits mFasL-mediated apoptosis and inflammation and, therefore, is an mFasL antagonist. DBA/2J mice spontaneously develop glaucoma and, predictably, RGC destruction is exacerbated by expression of a mutated membrane-only FasL gene that lacks the extracellular cleavage site. Remarkably, one-time intraocular adeno-associated virus-mediated gene delivery of sFasL provides complete and sustained neuroprotection in the chronic DBA/2J and acute microbead-induced models of glaucoma, even in the presence of elevated intraocular pressure. This protection correlated with inhibition of glial activation, reduced production of TNF-α, and decreased apoptosis of RGCs and loss of axons. These data indicate that cleavage of FasL under homeostatic conditions, and the ensuing release of sFasL, normally limits the neurodestructive activity of FasL. The data further support the notion that sFasL, and not mFasL, contributes to the immune-privileged status of the eye.