Caspase-2 mediates site-specific retinal ganglion cell death after blunt ocular injury

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Eleanor McCance
  • Martin Berry
  • Richard Blanch

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • University of Birmingham


Ocular trauma is common in civilian and military populations. Among other injuries, closed globe blunt ocular trauma causes acute disruption of photoreceptor outer segments (commotio retinae) and retinal ganglion cell (RGC) death (traumatic optic neuropathy [TON]), both of which permanently impair vision. Caspase-2-dependent cell death is important and evidenced in models of RGC degeneration. We assessed the role of caspase-2 as a mediator of RGC and photoreceptor death in a rat blunt ocular trauma model.

Bilateral ballistic closed globe blunt ocular trauma was induced in female Lister-hooded rats and caspase-2 cleavage and localization assessed by Western blotting and immunohistochemistry. Retinal caspase-2 was knocked down by intravitreal injection of caspase-2 small interfering RNA (siCASP2). In retinal sections, RGC survival was assessed by BRN3A-positive cell counts and photoreceptor survival by outer nuclear layer (ONL) thickness, respectively. Retinal function was assessed by electroretinography (ERG).

Raised levels of cleaved caspase-2 were detected in the retina at 5, 24, and 48 hours after injury and localized to RGC but not photoreceptors. Small interfering RNA-mediated caspase-2 knockdown neuroprotected RGC around but not in the center of the injury site. In addition, caspase-2 knockdown increased the amplitude of the ERG photopic negative response (PhNR) at 2 weeks after injury. However, siCASP2 was not protective for photoreceptors, suggesting that photoreceptor degeneration in this model is not mediated by caspase-2.

Caspase-2 mediates death in a proportion of RGC but not photoreceptors at the site of blunt ocular trauma. Thus, intravitreally delivered siCASP2 is a possible therapeutic for the effective treatment of RGC death to prevent TON.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4453-4462
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science (IOVS)
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 4 Sep 2018