Mechanisms regulating plasminogen activators in transformed retinal ganglion cells

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Irreversible loss of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) is a major clinical issue in glaucoma, but the mechanisms that lead to RGC death are currently unclear. We have previously reported that elevated levels of tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) and urokinase plasminogen activator (uPA) cause the death of RGCs in vivo and transformed retinal ganglion cells (RGC-5) in vitro. Yet, it is unclear how secreted proteases such as tPA and uPA directly cause RGCs' death. In this study, by employing RGC-5 cells, we report that tPA and uPA elicit their direct effect through the low-density lipoprotein-related receptor-1 (LRP-1). We also show that blockade of protease–LRP-1 interaction leads to a complete reduction in autocrine synthesis of tPA and uPA, and prevents protease-mediated death of RGC-5 cells. RGC-5 cells were cultured in serum-free medium and treated with 2.0 μM Staurosporine to induce their differentiation. Neurite outgrowth was observed by a phase contrast microscope and quantified by NeuroJ imaging software. Proteolytic activities of tPA and uPA were determined by zymography assays. Cell viability was determined by MTT assays. Compared to untreated RGC-5 cells, cells treated with Staurosporine differentiated, synthesized and secreted elevated levels of tPA and uPA, and underwent cell death. In contrast, when RGC-5 cells were treated with Staurosporine along with the receptor associated protein (RAP), proteolytic activities of both tPA and uPA were significantly reduced. Under these conditions, a significant number of RGC-5 cells survived and showed increased neurite outgrowth. These results indicate that LRP-1 regulates autocrine synthesis of tPA and uPA in RGC-5 cells and suggest that the use of RAP to antagonize the effect of proteases may be a way to prevent RGC death in glaucoma.

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