Background The choroid is densely innervated by all parts of the autonomic nervous system and further harbours a network of local nerve cells, the intrinsic choroidal neurons (ICN). Their function in ocular control is currently unknown. While morphological data assume a role in intraocular pressure regulation, we here test if increased pressure on isolated choroids may activate ICN. Methods Donor tissue was transferred into a pressurisable tissue culture chamber, and nasal and temporal choroid halves incubated for 1 or 4 hours, with pressures set to 15 or 50 mm Hg, followed by qRT-PCR expression analysis of the ICN-specific markers VIP, UCN, NOS1, UCH-L1. POL2-normalised data in the different pressure settings, incubation times and localisations were statistically analysed. Results The presence of the ICN-specific markers VIP, UCN, NOS1, UCH-L1 was confirmed using immunohistochemistry, and mRNA of all markers was detected in all experimental conditions. Marker analysis revealed no significant changes of mRNA expression levels between 15 and 50 mm Hg in the different incubation times. When comparing all samples over all experimental conditions, a significant increase of VIP and NOS1 mRNA was detected in temporal versus nasal choroids. Conclusion In this functional analysis of human ICN in vitro, higher amounts of VIP and NOS1 mRNA were detected in the temporal choroid, that is, the choroidal site with ICN accumulation. Further, our data indicate that elevated pressure is apparently not able to trigger ICN responses via the investigated markers. Alternative markers and stimuli need to be investigated in upcoming studies in order to unravel ICN function.
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