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Tafluprost promotes axon regeneration after optic nerve crush via Zn2+-mTOR pathway

Wu, S;Liu, C;Tang, J;Wu, C;Zhang, Q;Liu, Z;Han, J;Xue, J;Lin, J;Chen, Y;Yang, J;Zhuo, Y;Li, Y;

To investigate whether Tafluprost could promote optic nerve regeneration in mice after optic nerve crush (ONC) and determine the underlying molecular mechanism.

Tafluprost was injected into the vitreous body immediately after ONC. The level of Zn2+ in the inner plexiform layer (IPL) of the retina was stained using autometallography (AMG). The number of survival retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) was determined via dual staining with RGC markers Tuj1 and RBPMS. Individual axons that regenerated to 0.25, 0.5, 0.75 and 1 mm were manually counted in the whole-mount optic nerve labeled by cholera toxin B fragment (CTB). Immunofluorescence and Western blot were performed to detect protein expression levels. Pattern electroretinogram was used to evaluate RGCs function.

Tafluprost promoted RGC survival in a dose-dependent manner with an optimal concentration of 1 μM. Tafluprost significantly decreased ZnT-3 expression and Zn2+ accumulation in the IPL of retina. Tafluprost stimulated intense axonal regeneration and maintained RGCs function compared to control. Mechanistically, Tafluprost and Zn2+ elimination treatment (TPEN or ZnT-3 deletion) can activate the mTOR pathway with an improved percentage of pS6+ RGCs in the retina. However, rapamycin, a specific inhibitor of the mTOR1, inhibited the activation of the mTOR pathway and abolished the regenerative effect mediated by Tafluprost. Tafluprost also inhibited the upregulation of p62, LC3 and Beclin-1, attenuated the overactivation of microglia/macrophages and downregulated the expression of TNFα and IL-1β.

Our results suggest that Tafluprost promoted axon regeneration via regulation of the Zn2+-mTOR pathway, and provide novel research directions for glaucomatous optic nerve injury mechanisms.