Reactive remodeling of optic nerve head astrocytes is consistently observed in glaucoma and other optic nerve injuries. However, it is unknown whether this reactivity is beneficial or harmful for visual function. In this study, we used the Cre recombinase (Cre)–loxP system under regulation of the mouse glial fibrillary acidic protein promoter to knock out the transcription factor signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) from astrocytes and test the effect this has on reactive remodeling, ganglion cell survival, and visual function after experimental glaucoma and nerve crush. After injury, STAT3 knockout mice displayed attenuated astrocyte hypertrophy and reactive remodeling; astrocytes largely maintained their honeycomb organization and glial tubes. These changes were associated with increased loss of ganglion cells and visual function over a 30-day period. Thus, reactive astrocytes play a protective role, preserving visual function. STAT3 signaling is an important mediator of various aspects of the reactive phenotype within optic nerve astrocytes.
- Submitted: 21 March 2016
- Revision received 5 December 2016
- Accepted: 8 March 2017
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