Early immune responses are independent of RGC dysfunction in glaucoma with complement component C3 being protective.

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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2017 May 9; 114(19):E3839-E3848




EY021525, EY011721


Various immune response pathways are altered during early, predegenerative stages of glaucoma; however, whether the early immune responses occur secondarily to or independently of neuronal dysfunction is unclear. To investigate this relationship, we used the Wld(s) allele, which protects from axon dysfunction. We demonstrate that DBA/2J.Wld(s) mice develop high intraocular pressure (IOP) but are protected from retinal ganglion cell (RGC) dysfunction and neuroglial changes that otherwise occur early in DBA/2J glaucoma. Despite this, immune pathways are still altered in DBA/2J.Wld(s) mice. This suggests that immune changes are not secondary to RGC dysfunction or altered neuroglial interactions, but may be directly induced by the increased strain imposed by high IOP. One early immune response following IOP elevation is up-regulation of complement C3 in astrocytes of DBA/2J and DBA/2J.Wld(s) mice. Unexpectedly, because the disruption of other complement components, such as C1Q, is protective in glaucoma, C3 deficiency significantly increased the number of DBA/2J eyes with nerve damage and RGC loss at an early time point after IOP elevation. Transcriptional profiling of C3-deficient cultured astrocytes implicated EGFR signaling as a hub in C3-dependent responses. Treatment with AG1478, an EGFR inhibitor, also significantly increased the number of DBA/2J eyes with glaucoma at the same early time point. These findings suggest that C3 protects from early glaucomatous damage, a process that may involve EGFR signaling and other immune responses in the optic nerve head. Therefore, therapies that target specific components of the complement cascade, rather than global inhibition, may be more applicable for treating human glaucoma. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2017 May 9; 114(19):E3839-E3848.