Axonal damage, autophagy and neuronal survival

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review


In recent years autophagy modulation has been shown to reduce or increase neuronal cell death in several models of neurodegeneration. How autophagy exerts these dual effects is currently unknown. Here we review recent evidence from our laboratory demonstrating that autophagy can protect the cell soma after axonal traumatic injury. Damage in the optic nerve induces retinal ganglion cell (RGC) death in glaucoma and other retinal diseases and is often modeled by axotomy of the optic nerve in laboratory animals. Using this well-known model of RGC degeneration we show that autophagy is strongly upregulated following the insult and before cell death. Enhancement of autophagy by pharmacological treatment with rapamycin decreases the number of degenerating neurons. Conversely, axotomy in Atg4B-/- mice increases the number of dying cells in the retinal ganglion cell layer. Similar findings were observed in Atg5flox/flox mice following specific downregulation of the autophagy regulator ATG5 in RGCs, by intravitreal injection of a cre-expressing vector. Taken together, these findings point to a cytoprotective role of autophagy following axonal damage in vivo.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)286-288
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012

External IDs

WOS 000302420100019
Scopus 84857249654


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