Caspase-9 mediates photoreceptor death after blunt ocular trauma

Richard J Blanch, Zubair Ahmed, Adam R Thompson, Nsikan Akpan, David R J Snead, Martin Berry, Carol M Troy, Robert A H Scott, Ann Logan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


PURPOSE: Ocular trauma is common in civilian and military populations. Commotio retinae involves acute disruption of photoreceptor outer segments after blunt ocular trauma, with subsequent photoreceptor apoptosis causing permanent visual impairment. The mechanisms of photoreceptor death in commotio retinae have not previously been described, although caspase-dependent death is important in other nontraumatic retinal degenerations. We assessed the role of caspase-9 as a mediator of photoreceptor death in a rat model of ballistic ocular trauma causing commotio retinae.

METHODS: Bilateral commotio retinae was induced in rats by ballistic ocular trauma. Caspase-9 activity was assessed by immunohistochemistry, Western blotting, and bVAD-fmk active caspase capture. Caspase-9 was inhibited by unilateral intravitreal injection of highly specific X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis (IAP) baculoviral IAP repeat 3 (XBIR3) domain linked to the cell transduction peptide penetratin 1 (Pen-1) after ballistic injury, and the affected eyes were compared with control eyes treated with Pen-1 injection alone, and retinal function was assessed by electroretinogram a-wave amplitude and photoreceptor survival by outer nuclear layer thickness.

RESULTS: Increased levels of cleaved caspase-9 were shown in photoreceptors 5 hours after injury, and catalytically active full-length caspase-9 was isolated from retinas. Photoreceptor death after commotio retinae was reduced by caspase-9 inhibition by using Pen-1-XBIR3, and electroretinographic measurements of photoreceptor function was preserved, providing structural and functional neuroprotection.

CONCLUSIONS: The time course of caspase-9 activation and the neuroprotective effects of inhibition suggest that caspase-9 initiates cell death in a proportion of photoreceptors after blunt ocular trauma and that an intravitreally delivered biologic inhibitor may be an effective translational treatment strategy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6350-7
Number of pages8
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science (IOVS)
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2014 The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, Inc.


  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Blotting, Western
  • Caspase 9
  • Cell Survival
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Electroretinography
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Eye Injuries
  • Female
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Situ Nick-End Labeling
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Vertebrate
  • Rats
  • Tomography, Optical Coherence
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating


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