Rebecca Sappington-Calkins
Last active: 2/4/2016


The primary disease focus for the laboratory is Glaucoma, a chronic, age-related optic neuropathy, and the second leading cause of blindness worldwide. Irreversible vision loss results from the degeneration of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), whose axons form the optic nerve. While age is the primary risk factor for glaucoma, elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) is the primary modifiable risk factor and the only current therapeutic target. Although the direct cause of RGC degeneration has yet to be determined, it shares many cellular characteristics with neurodegenerative diseases elsewhere in the central nervous system (CNS), including Alzheimer’s disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. These characteristics include: 1) functional failure that precedes cell loss, 2) axonal degeneration that precedes cell soma loss and 3) induction of neuroinflammatory responses by glial cells.

The Sappington laboratory focuses on understanding the molecular and cellular events at the intersection of neuron failure, neuroinflammation and pathological progression of neurodegenerative disease. To identify molecular pathways and cellular events involved in disease and to develop pharmacological and regenerative therapies, we use a variety of approaches, including: in vitro and in vivo experimental models, basic molecular and cellular biology, cell and tissue histology, electrophysiology, live cell imaging, in vivo imaging, neural tracing and neurobehavioral assays.


The following timeline graph is generated from all co-authored publications.

Featured publications are shown below:

  1. Pressure-Induced Alterations in PEDF and PEDF-R Expression: Implications for Neuroprotective Signaling in Glaucoma. Lee SJ, Duncan DS, Echevarria FD, McLaughlin WM, Hatcher JB, Sappington RM (2015) J Clin Exp Ophthalmol 6(5)
    › Primary publication · 26807306 (PubMed) · PMC4721587 (PubMed Central)
  2. Retina-on-a-chip: a microfluidic platform for point access signaling studies. Dodson KH, Echevarria FD, Li D, Sappington RM, Edd JF (2015) Biomed Microdevices 17(6): 114
    › Primary publication · 26559199 (PubMed) · PMC4707151 (PubMed Central)
  3. Virus-mediated EpoR76E Therapy Slows Optic Nerve Axonopathy in Experimental Glaucoma. Bond WS, Hines-Beard J, GoldenMerry YL, Davis M, Farooque A, Sappington RM, Calkins DJ, Rex TS (2016) Mol Ther 24(2): 230-239
    › Primary publication · 26502777 (PubMed) · PMC4817814 (PubMed Central)
  4. Activation of transient receptor potential vanilloid-1 (TRPV1) influences how retinal ganglion cell neurons respond to pressure-related stress. Sappington RM, Sidorova T, Ward NJ, Chakravarthy R, Ho KW, Calkins DJ (2015) Channels (Austin) 9(2): 102-13
    › Primary publication · 25713995 (PubMed) · PMC4594535 (PubMed Central)
  5. Short-term increases in transient receptor potential vanilloid-1 mediate stress-induced enhancement of neuronal excitation. Weitlauf C, Ward NJ, Lambert WS, Sidorova TN, Ho KW, Sappington RM, Calkins DJ (2014) J Neurosci 34(46): 15369-81
    › Primary publication · 25392504 (PubMed) · PMC4228139 (PubMed Central)
  6. Astrocyte Reactivity: A Biomarker for Retinal Ganglion Cell Health in Retinal Neurodegeneration. Formichella CR, Abella SK, Sims SM, Cathcart HM, Sappington RM (2014) J Clin Cell Immunol 5(1)
    › Primary publication · 25133067 (PubMed) · PMC4131747 (PubMed Central)
  7. Stressor-dependent Alterations in Glycoprotein 130: Implications for Glial Cell Reactivity, Cytokine Signaling and Ganglion Cell Health in Glaucoma. Echevarria F, Walker C, Abella S, Won M, Sappington R (2013) J Clin Exp Ophthalmol 4(3)
    › Primary publication · 25018894 (PubMed) · PMC4091850 (PubMed Central)
  8. Spatial regulation of interleukin-6 signaling in response to neurodegenerative stressors in the retina. Sims SM, Holmgren L, Cathcart HM, Sappington RM (2012) Am J Neurodegener Dis 1(2): 168-79
    › Primary publication · 23024928 (PubMed) · PMC3560463 (PubMed Central)
  9. Optic neuropathy due to microbead-induced elevated intraocular pressure in the mouse. Chen H, Wei X, Cho KS, Chen G, Sappington R, Calkins DJ, Chen DF (2011) Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 52(1): 36-44
    › Primary publication · 20702815 (PubMed) · PMC3053285 (PubMed Central)
  10. Morphometric changes in the rat optic nerve following short-term intermittent elevations in intraocular pressure. Joos KM, Li C, Sappington RM (2010) Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 51(12): 6431-40
    › Primary publication · 20688743 (PubMed) · PMC3055763 (PubMed Central)
  11. Distal axonopathy with structural persistence in glaucomatous neurodegeneration. Crish SD, Sappington RM, Inman DM, Horner PJ, Calkins DJ (2010) Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 107(11): 5196-201
    › Primary publication · 20194762 (PubMed) · PMC2841892 (PubMed Central)
  12. The microbead occlusion model: a paradigm for induced ocular hypertension in rats and mice. Sappington RM, Carlson BJ, Crish SD, Calkins DJ (2010) Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 51(1): 207-16
    › Primary publication · 19850836 (PubMed) · PMC2869054 (PubMed Central)
  13. Induced autoimmunity to heat shock proteins elicits glaucomatous loss of retinal ganglion cell neurons via activated T-cell-derived fas-ligand. Wax MB, Tezel G, Yang J, Peng G, Patil RV, Agarwal N, Sappington RM, Calkins DJ (2008) J Neurosci 28(46): 12085-96
    › Primary publication · 19005073 (PubMed) · PMC2683273 (PubMed Central)
  14. TRPV1: contribution to retinal ganglion cell apoptosis and increased intracellular Ca2+ with exposure to hydrostatic pressure. Sappington RM, Sidorova T, Long DJ, Calkins DJ (2009) Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 50(2): 717-28
    › Primary publication · 18952924 (PubMed) · PMC3549616 (PubMed Central)
  15. Contribution of TRPV1 to microglia-derived IL-6 and NFkappaB translocation with elevated hydrostatic pressure. Sappington RM, Calkins DJ (2008) Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 49(7): 3004-17
    › Primary publication · 18362111 (PubMed) · PMC4139938 (PubMed Central)
  16. Pressure-induced regulation of IL-6 in retinal glial cells: involvement of the ubiquitin/proteasome pathway and NFkappaB. Sappington RM, Calkins DJ (2006) Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 47(9): 3860-9
    › Primary publication · 16936098 (PubMed)
  17. Interleukin-6 protects retinal ganglion cells from pressure-induced death. Sappington RM, Chan M, Calkins DJ (2006) Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 47(7): 2932-42
    › Primary publication · 16799036 (PubMed)
  18. Quantitative correlation of optic nerve pathology with ocular pressure and corneal thickness in the DBA/2 mouse model of glaucoma. Inman DM, Sappington RM, Horner PJ, Calkins DJ (2006) Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 47(3): 986-96
    › Primary publication · 16505033 (PubMed)
  19. Morphological identification of ganglion cells expressing the alpha subunit of type II calmodulin-dependent protein kinase in the macaque retina. Calkins DJ, Sappington RM, Hendry SH (2005) J Comp Neurol 481(2): 194-209
    › Primary publication · 15562509 (PubMed)
  20. Optic nerve degeneration in a murine model of juvenile ceroid lipofuscinosis. Sappington RM, Pearce DA, Calkins DJ (2003) Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 44(9): 3725-31
    › Primary publication · 12939285 (PubMed)