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E Roufail, R Harding, M Tester, S Rees; Chronic hypoxemia: effects on developing nitrergic and dopaminergic amacrine cells.. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 1999;40(7):1467-1476.
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PURPOSE: Very low birth weight and growth-restricted children have visual impairments including reduced contrast sensitivity, a parameter mediated in part by dopaminergic amacrine cells. The origin of these deficits is uncertain. In experimental fetal growth restriction, induced by placental insufficiency, the morphology and number of dopaminergic amacrine cells as identified by tyrosine hydroxylase staining were examined. In addition, the subclass of nitrergic amacrine cells was examined because nitric oxide released from nitric oxide synthase- containing neurons is proposed as a mediator of neurotoxicity and might contribute to the injury of dopaminergic amacrine cells in this situation. METHODS: Fetal sheep were subjected to 20 or 30 days of placental embolization leading to fetal hypoxemia, hypoglycemia, and growth restriction during the last third of gestation (term, approximately 147 days). Retinal tissue was prepared as wholemounts or cryostat sections and analyzed for retinal area, total number, density, somal size and cell process length of amacrine cells immunoreactive for tyrosine hydroxylase or nitric oxide synthase, and widths of retinal layers. Retinas from fetal sheep at 72, 96, 113, and 140 days' gestation and adults were collected for an ontogenetic study of tyrosine hydroxylase-immunoreactive neurons. RESULTS: In growth-restricted fetuses, the number of tyrosine hydroxylase-immunoreactive neurons and the total length of stained processes per cell were significantly reduced compared to control fetuses. The total number of neuronal nitric oxide synthase- containing neurons was not different between growth-restricted and control fetuses. The thickness of the inner retinal layers was reduced in hypoxemia. CONCLUSIONS: There is damage to tyrosine hydroxylase-immunoreactive amacrine cells during fetal chronic placental insufficiency. This damage might be involved in the altered retinal dopaminergic system observed in very low birth weight infants, some of whom are growth-restricted. Furthermore, a differential susceptibility of tyrosine hydroxylase-immunoreactive and neuronal nitric oxide synthase-containing amacrine cells to hypoxemic injury has been demonstrated. These observations add to the current hypothesis that neuronal nitric oxide synthase- containing neurons are resistant to hypoxemic injury and may be involved in mediating some of the neuronal damage that results from hypoxemic insults.
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