Optic nerve head astrocytes display axon-dependent and-independent reactivity in response to acutely elevated intraocular pressure

Shandiz Tehrani, Lauren Davis, William O. Cepurna, R. Katherine Delf, Diana C. Lozano, Tiffany E. Choe, Elaine Johnson, John Morrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations


PURPOSE. Optic nerve head (ONH) astrocytes provide support for axons, but exhibit structural and functional changes (termed reactivity) in a number of glaucoma models. The purpose of this study was to determine if ONH astrocyte structural reactivity is axon-dependent. METHODS. Using rats, we combine retrobulbar optic nerve transection (ONT) with acute controlled elevation of intraocular pressure (CEI), to induce total optic nerve axon loss and ONH astrocyte reactivity, respectively. Animals were euthanized immediately or 1 day post CEI, in the presence or absence of ONT. ONH sections were labeled with fluorescent-tagged phalloidin and antibodies against β3 tubulin, phosphorylated cortactin, phosphorylated paxillin, or complement C3. ONH label intensities were quantified after confocal microscopy. Retrobulbar nerves were assessed for axon injury by light microscopy. RESULTS. While ONT alone had no effect on ONH astrocyte structural orientation, astrocytes demonstrated significant reorganization of cellular extensions within hours after CEI, even when combined with ONT. However, ONH astrocytes displayed differential intensities of actin (phosphorylated cortactin) and focal adhesion (phosphorylated paxillin) mediators in response to CEI alone, ONT alone, or the combination of CEI and ONT. Lastly, label intensities of complement C3 within the ONH were unchanged in eyes subjected to CEI alone, ONT alone, or the combination of CEI and ONT, relative to controls. CONCLUSIONS. Early ONH astrocyte structural reactivity to elevated IOP is multifaceted, displaying both axon dependent and independent responses. These findings have important implications for pursuing astrocytes as diagnostic and therapeutic targets in neurodegenerative disorders with fluctuating levels of axon injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)312-321
Number of pages10
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019



  • Astrocyte reactivity
  • Axon
  • Elevated intraocular pressure
  • Glaucoma
  • Optic nerve head

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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