Chronic ocular hypertension induces dendrite pathology in the lateral geniculate nucleus of the brain

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In glaucoma, there is atrophy and loss of retinal ganglion cells (RGC), in addition to atrophy and loss of target neurons in the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) of the brain. To investigate possible changes to the dendrites of LGN neurons in glaucoma, a selective marker for dendrites called microtubule-associated protein-2 (MAP2) was used. The LGNs from five monkeys with varying degrees of optic nerve fiber loss were compared to those from five normal control monkeys. Dendrites in magno- and parvocellular layers connected to the glaucomatous eye were evaluated. In controls, long MAP2-positive dendrites with multiple fine branches were seen. However, chronic ocular hypertension induced striking disruption of dendrites with a thickened and shortened appearance. Dendrite field area was significantly reduced in the glaucoma group compared to controls. Sholl analysis revealed reduced dendrite complexity by 47% and 41% in magnocellular layer 1 and parvocellular layer 6, respectively in the glaucoma group compared to controls. The striking dendrite changes in the LGN following chronically elevated intraocular pressure may be relevant to early visual dysfunction in glaucoma.

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