The Analysis of Brn3a and Thy1-CFP as Potential Markers of Retinal Ganglion Cells after Optic Nerve Injury in Mice
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Purpose: Retinal ganglion cell (RGC) loss is a measure of the progression of many visual disorders. It is important to identify RGCs with good specificity, so RGC numbers can be reliably analyzed. The purpose of this study was to analyze the effectiveness of two current RGC markers: Brn3a immunohistochemistry and the expression of Thy1-CFP in the Thy1-CFP transgenic mouse. Methods: Rhodamine-?-isothiocyanate (RITC) retrograde labeling, immunohistochemistry, wholemount retinal imaging, western blot, cross sectional analysis and cell densities in uninjured control animals and 3, 5, 7 and 14 days post-optic nerve crush (ONC) or transection (ONT) were tabulated. Results: Brn3a positive (Brn3a+) cell density was significantly less than RITC positive (RITC+) cell density in control mice. After ON injury, Brn3a+ cell density did not decrease at the same rate as RITC+ cell density. The density of RGCs that express Brn3a was significantly less than the individual Brn3a+ and RITC+ cell density at all experimental time points. Thy1-CFP positive (Thy1-CFP+) cell density was significantly less than RITC+ in control mice and significantly more than RITC+ cell density 14 days after ON injury. Thy1-CFP co-localized with ChAT positive (ChAT+) cells 7 days after ONT. Conclusion: Brn3a and Thy1-CFP are not reliable markers of RGCs. Retrograde labeling remains one of the most reliable methods of labeling RGCs in mice.