Ultrastructural Morphology of the Optic Nerve Head in Aged and Glaucomatous Mice


Zhu Y, Pappas AC, Wang R, Seifert P, Sun D, Jakobs TC. Ultrastructural Morphology of the Optic Nerve Head in Aged and Glaucomatous Mice. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2018;59(10):3984-3996.

Date Published:

2018 Aug 01


Purpose: To study age- and intraocular pressure-induced changes in the glial lamina of the murine optic nerve on the ultrastructural level. Methods: Naïve C57bl/6 mice at various ages spanning the time between early adulthood (3 months) and senescence (30 months) were used in this study. In addition, the intraocular pressure (IOP) was increased in a group of young mice by injection of microbeads into the anterior chamber. The unmyelinated segments of the optic nerve containing the glial lamina were prepared for transmission electron microscopy and imaged at high resolution. Results: Axon packing density decreased slightly with age. Aging nerves contained higher numbers of enlarged and degenerating axons. Mean axonal diameter and in particular the variance of axonal diameter correlated well with age. Axonal mitochondria also showed age-dependent signs of pathology. The mean diameter of axonal mitochondria increased, and aged axons often contained profiles of mitochondria with very few or no cristae. Astrocytic mitochondria remained normal even in very old nerves. Changes to axons and axonal mitochondria in young glaucomatous nerves were comparable with those of 18- to 30-month-old naïve mice. In addition to axons and mitochondria, aged and glaucomatous nerves showed thickening of the blood vessel basement membranes and increased deposition of basement membrane collagen. Conclusions: On the ultrastructural level, the effects of age and elevated IOP are quite similar. One month of elevated IOP seems to have as strongly detrimental effects on the nerve as at least 18 months of normal aging.

Last updated on 09/04/2018