T and B lymphocyte deficiency in rag1−/− mice reduces retinal ganglion cell loss in experimental glaucoma

Oliver W. Gramlich, Cheyanne R. Godwin, Neal D. Heuss, Dale S. Gregerson, Markus H. Kuehn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


PURPOSE. We previously demonstrated that passive transfer of lymphocytes from glaucomatous mice induces retinal ganglion cell (RGC) damage in recipient animals, suggesting a role for immune responses in the multifactorial pathophysiology of glaucoma. Here we evaluate whether absence of an adaptive immune response reduces RGC loss in glaucoma. METHODS. Elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) was induced in one eye of C57BL/6J (B6) or T- and B-cell–deficient Rag1−/− knockout mice. After 16 weeks RGC density was determined in both the induced and the normotensive contralateral eyes. Data were compared to mice having received injections of “empty” vector (controls). The number of extravascular CD3+ cells in the retinas was determined using FACS. RESULTS. Retinas of eyes with elevated IOP contain significantly more extravasated CD3+ cells than control retinas (46.0 vs. 27.1, P = 0.025). After 16 weeks of elevated IOP the average RGC density in B6 mice decreased by 20.7% (P = 1.9 × 10−4). In contrast, RGC loss in Rag1−/− eyes with elevated IOP was significantly lower (10.3%, P = 0.006 vs. B6). RGC loss was also observed in the contralateral eyes of B6 mice, despite the absence of elevated IOP in those eyes (10.1%; P = 0.008). In RAG1−/− loss in the contralateral eyes was minimal (3.1%) and significantly below that detected in B6 (P = 0.02). CONCLUSIONS. Our findings demonstrate that T Rag1−/− mice are significantly protected from glaucomatous RGC loss. In this model, lymphocyte activity contributes to approximately half of all RGC loss in eyes with elevated IOP and to essentially all loss observed in normotensive contralateral eyes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2772066
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number14
StatePublished - Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Supported by VA grant RX001163, NIH P30 EY025580, R01-EY025209, the Minnesota Lions Vision Foundation, and an unrestricted grant from Research to Prevent Blindness to the University of Iowa Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright 2020 The Authors.


  • Autoimmune response/disease
  • Glaucoma
  • Intraocular pressure
  • RGC


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