PURPOSE. The purpose of this study was to investigate the roles of ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) on the protective effects of astrocytes on retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). METHODS. Primary RGCs were isolated from neonatal rats. Oxidative stress was induced, and the effects of co-culture with astrocytes and CNTF treatment on RGCs were evaluated. The pathways commonly altered by astrocytes and CNTF were investigated. Effects of each pathway were investigated using pathway inhibitors against PI3K/AKT, JAK/STAT, and MAPK/ERK. RNA sequencing was performed to identify the genes upregulated and downregulated by CNTF treatment. RESULTS. Astrocytes improved the viability and increased β3-tubulin expression in RGCs. The concentration of CNTF increased in the RGC-astrocyte co-culture medium. The protective effects of astrocytes were abolished by neutralization with the anti-CNTF antibody; thus, CNTF may play an important role in the effects mediated by astrocytes. Furthermore, CNTF treatment alone enhanced the viability and β3-tubulin expression of RGCs and increased the population of viable RGCs under oxidative stress. The PI3K/AKT pathway was associated with both RGC viability and β3-tubulin expression. However, the JAK/STAT pathway increased the viability of RGCs, whereas the MAPK/ERK pathway was associated with β3-tubulin expression. RNA sequencing revealed the CNTF-upregulated genes associated with response to DNA damage and downregulated genes associated with photoreceptor cell differentiation. CONCLUSIONS. Our data revealed protective effects of astrocyte-derived CNTF on RGCs. In addition, we showed that multiple pathways exert these protective effects and identified the novel genes involved. These results may be helpful in developing treatments for RGC injury.
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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sensory Systems
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience