Documenta Ophthalmologica

, Volume 80, Issue 4, pp 273–300 | Cite as

Interrelationship between retinal ischaemic damage and turnover and metabolism of putative amino acid neurotransmitters, glutamate and GABA

  • Leonie N. Robin
  • Michael Kalloniatis


Conditions causing a reduction of oxygen availability (anoxia), such as stroke or diabetes, result in drastic changes in ion movements, levels of neurotransmitters and metabolites and subsequent neural death. Currently, there is no clinically available treatment for anoxia induced neural cell death resulting in drastic and permanent central nervous system dysfunction. However, there have been some exciting developments in experimentally induced anoxic conditions where several classes of drugs appear to significantly reduce neural cell death. This report aims to provide the foundations for understanding both the basic mechanisms involved in retinal ischaemic damage and experimental treatments used to prevent such damage. We discuss the normal release, actions and uptake of the fast retinal neurotransmitters, glutamate and GABA, in the vertebrate retina. Immunocytochemistry is used to demonstrate that both glutamate and GABA are found in the macaque retina. Following this is a discussion on how ischaemia may enhance neurotransmitter release or disrupt its uptake, thus causing an increase in extracellular concentration of these neurotransmitters and subsequent neuronal damage. The mechanisms involved in glutamate neurotoxicity are reviewed, because excess glutamate is the likely cause of retinal ischaemic damage. Finally, the mechanisms behind four possible modes of treatment of neurotransmitter toxicity and their advantages and disadvantages are discussed. Hopefully, further research in this area will lead to the development of a rational therapy for retinal, as well as cerebral ischaemia.

Key words

Anoxia GABA glutamate immunocytochemistry ischaemia neurotransmitters retina 





aspartate amino transferase


amacrine cell


amacrine cell layer


bipolar cell


central nervous system


excitatory amino acids




γ-amino butyric acid


GABA transaminase


glumatic acid decarboxylase


ganglion cell


ganglion cell layer


glutamate dehydrogenase


gap junction


glutamine synthetase


horizontal cell


inner limiting membrane


inner nuclear layer


inter-plexiform cell


inner plexiform layer


inner segment of photoreceptor


nerve fibre layer




outer limiting membrane


outer nuclear layer


outer plexiform layer


outer segment of photoreceptor




receptor layer


succinate semi-aldehyde decarboxylase

Succinate SA

succinate semi aldehyde

TCA cycle

tricarboxylic acid cycle


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leonie N. Robin
    • 1
  • Michael Kalloniatis
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of OptometryUniversity of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia
  2. 2.Department of OptometryUniversity of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia

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