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AAV-mediated and pharmacological induction of Hsp70 expression stimulates survival of retinal ganglion cells following axonal injury.


We evaluated the effect of AAV2- and 17-AAG (17-N-allylamino-17-demethoxygeldanamycin)-mediated upregulation of Hsp70 expression on the survival of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) injured by optic nerve crush (ONC). AAV2-Hsp70 expression in the retina was primarily observed in the ganglion cell layer. Approximately 75% of all transfected cells were RGCs. RGC survival in AAV2-Hsp70-injected animals was increased by an average of 110% 2 weeks after the axonal injury compared with the control. The increase in cell numbers was not even across the retinas with a maximum effect of approximately 306% observed in the inferior quadrant. 17-AAG-mediated induction of Hsp70 expression has been associated with cell protection in various models of neurodegenerative diseases. We show here that a single intravitreal injection of 17-AAG (0.2 ug ul(-1)) results in an increased survival of ONC-injured RGCs by approximately 49% compared with the vehicle-treated animals. Expression of Hsp70 in retinas of 17-AAG-treated animals was upregulated approximately by twofold compared with control animals. Our data support the idea that the upregulation of Hsp70 has a beneficial effect on the survival of injured RGCs, and the induction of this protein could be viewed as a potential neuroprotective strategy for optic neuropathies.

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