Commensal microflora-induced T cell responses mediate progressive neurodegeneration in glaucoma.
Glaucoma is the most prevalent neurodegenerative disease and a leading cause of blindness worldwide. The mechanisms causing glaucomatous neurodegeneration are not fully understood. Here we show, using mice deficient in T and/or B cells and adoptive cell transfer, that transient elevation of intraocular pressure (IOP) is sufficient to induce T-cell infiltration into the retina. This T-cell infiltration leads to a prolonged phase of retinal ganglion cell degeneration that persists after IOP returns to a normal level. Heat shock proteins (HSP) are identified as target antigens of T-cell responses in glaucomatous mice and human glaucoma patients. Furthermore, retina-infiltrating T cells cross-react with human and bacterial HSPs; mice raised in the absence of commensal microflora do not develop glaucomatous T-cell responses or the associated neurodegeneration. These results provide compelling evidence that glaucomatous neurodegeneration is mediated in part by T cells that are pre-sensitized by exposure to commensal microflora.
Nat Commun. 2018 Aug 10;9(1):3209. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-05681-9.