Cell-specific caspase expression by different neuronal phenotypes in transient retinal ischemia

Manjeet Singh, Sean I. Savitz, Romy Hoque, Gaurav Gupta, Steven Roth, Pearl S. Rosenbaum, Daniel M. Rosenbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


Emerging evidence supports an important role for caspases in neuronal death following ischemia-reperfusion injury. This study assessed whether cell specific caspases participate in neuronal degeneration and whether caspase inhibition provides neuroprotection following transient retinal ischemia. We utilized a model of transient global retinal ischemia. The spatial and temporal pattern of the active forms of caspase 1, 2 and 3 expression was determined in retinal neurons following ischemic injury. Double-labeling with cell-specific markers identified which cells were expressing different caspases. In separate experiments, animals received various caspase inhibitors before the induction of ischemia. Sixty minutes of ischemia resulted in a delayed, selective neuronal death of the inner retinal layers at 7 days. Expression of caspase 1 was not detected at any time point. Maximal expression of caspase 2 was found at 24 h primarily in the inner nuclear and ganglion cell layers of the retina and localized to ganglion and amacrine neurons. Caspase 3 also peaked at 24 h in both the inner nuclear and outer nuclear layers and was predominantly expressed in photoreceptor cells and to a lesser extent in amacrine neurons. The pan caspase inhibitor, Boc-aspartyl fmk, or an antisense oligonucleotide inhibitor of caspase 2 led to significant histopathologic and functional improvement (electroretinogram) at 7 days. No protection was found with the caspase 1 selective inhibitor, Y-vad fmk. These observations suggest that ischemia-reperfusion injury activates different caspases depending on the neuronal phenotype in the retina and caspase inhibition leads to both histologic preservation and functional improvement. Caspases 2 and 3 may act in parallel in amacrine neurons following ischemia-reperfusion. These results in the retina may shed light on differential caspase specificity in global cerebral ischemia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)466-475
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of neurochemistry
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


  • Apoptosis
  • Ischemia
  • Neuronal death
  • Protease
  • Retina


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