ASPP1/2 Regulate p53-Dependent Death of Retinal Ganglion Cells through PUMA and Fas/CD95 Activation In Vivo.
The transcription factor p53 mediates neuronal death in a variety of stress-related and neurodegenerative conditions. The proapoptotic activity of p53 is tightly regulated by the apoptosis-stimulating proteins of p53 (ASPP) family members: ASPP1 and ASPP2. However, whether ASPP1/2 play a role in the regulation of p53-dependent neuronal death in the CNS is currently unknown. To address this, we asked whether ASPP1/2 contribute to the death of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) using in vivo models of acute optic nerve damage in mice and rats. Here, we show that p53 is activated in RGCs soon after injury and that axotomy-induced RGC death is attenuated in p53 heterozygote and null mice. We demonstrate that ASPP1/2 proteins are abundantly expressed by injured RGCs, and that short interfering (si)RNA-based ASPP1 or ASPP2 knockdown promotes robust RGC survival. Comparative gene expression analysis revealed that siASPP-mediated downregulation of p53-upregulated-modulator-of-apoptosis (PUMA), Fas/CD95, and Noxa depends on p53 transcriptional activity. Furthermore, siRNA against PUMA or Fas/CD95 confers neuroprotection, demonstrating a functional role for these p53 targets in RGC death. Our study demonstrates a novel role for ASPP1 and ASPP2 in the death of RGCs and provides evidence that blockade of the ASPP-p53 pathway is beneficial for central neuron survival after axonal injury.