Numerous studies have been performed aimed at limiting the extent of retinal injury after ischemia, but there is still no effective pharmacological treatment available. The aim of the present study was to examine the role of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)α and its receptors (TNF-R1 and TNF-R2), especially considering the neuroretina and the retinal vasculature since the retinal blood vessels are key organs in circulatory failure.
Retinal ischemia was induced in pigs by elevating the intraocular pressure to 80 mmHg in one eye, while the other eye served as a control (sham-operated). One hour of ischemia was followed by 5 or 12 h of reperfusion. Retinal circulation was examined in vivo by fundus imaging and fluorescein angiography. TNF-α levels were measured in the vitreous using an angiogenesis antibody array test. The presence and amounts of TNF-α, TNF-R1, and TNF-R2 were investigated in the neuroretina and in the retinal blood vessels, using immunofluorescence staining and real-time PCR techniques.
Fundus imaging showed obstructed blood flow when ischemia was induced, and reperfusion was clearly visualized using fluorescein angiography. Ischemia resulted in elevated levels of TNF-α protein in the vitreous and TNF-α mRNA in the neuroretina. TNF-α immunofluorescence staining was localized to the Müller cells and the outer plexiform layer of the neuroretina. The expression of TNF-R1 and TNF-R2 mRNA was increased in both the neuroretina and retinal arteries following ischemia-reperfusion. Immunofluorescence double staining for TNF-R1 and either smooth muscle actin or 4',6-diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI) indicated expression in the cell membranes of the vascular smooth muscle cells. Double staining with TNF-R1 and calbindin showed localization to the horizontal cells in the outer plexiform layer of the neuroretina.
Retinal ischemia results in increased expression of TNF-α and its receptors (TNF-R1 and TNF-R2). Cellular signaling pathways involving TNF may be important in the development of retinal injury following ischemia and thus an interesting target for future development of pharmacological therapeutics.