Exp Eye Res 2005 Sep;81(3):340-9
Koret School of Veterinary Medicine, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Herzl Street, P.O. Box 12, Rehovot 76100, Israel.
With the increasing use of the rat as an animal model for glaucoma and for the evaluation of neuroprotective treatments, there is a need for a sensitive test of retinal ganglion cell (RGC) function in this species. The aims of this study were to detect functional abnormalities of the inner retina in a rat model of high intraocular pressure (IOP) using the pattern electroretinogram (PERG), and to correlate them with morphometric analysis of RGC survival and the functional integrity of the inner retina. Unilateral ocular hypertension was induced in 17 Lewis rats through laser photocoagulation. Pattern ERGs were recorded prior to lasering and 3 weeks later, using a series of shifting patterns of decreasing spatial frequency projected directly onto the animals' fundus. IOP was measured at the same intervals, and the number of surviving RGCs estimated. Low amplitude PERG signals could be recorded in response to a narrow grating of 0.368 cycles per degree (cpd), and increased with stimulus size. Lasering caused mean (+/-s.d.) IOP to increase significantly from 18.3+/-4.5 (baseline) to 29.8+/-8.8 mmHg within 3 weeks (p<0.0001). At this time, PERG amplitudes were significantly reduced (p<0.05), declining an average of 45% compared to the normotensive, control eyes. No outer retinal damage was observed, but the mean number of RGCs decreased significantly (p<0.001), from 2 525.0+/-372.4 to 1 542.8+/-333.8 cells per mm2. This decrease in RGC number was significantly (p=0.03) correlated the decrease in PERG amplitude. The correlation between functional integrity of the inner retina and the rat PERG was further demonstrated by intravitreal tetrodotoxin injections, which temporarily abolished the PERG but did not affect outer retinal activity, reflected in the flash ERG. The evidence for early functional deficits, combined with tonometry and documentation of correlated ganglion cells loss, confirms the sensitivity of this diagnostic tool and the validity and importance of this animal model in glaucoma research.