PURPOSE. To investigate the axonal cytoskeleton changes occurring in the prelaminar region, lamina cribrosa, and postlaminar region of the porcine optic nerve after an acute increase in intraocular pressure (IOP) and whether this corresponds with axonal transport abnormalities.METHODS. Six white Landrace pigs were used. The left eye IOP was elevated to 40 to 45 mm Hg for 6 hours, and the right eye IOP was maintained between 10 and 15 mm Hg. Rhodamine-beta-isothiocyanate (RITC) was injected into the vitreous of each eye at the beginning of the experiment, to study axonal transport. After euthanasia, optic nerves were removed and prepared for axonal transport and cytoskeleton studies. Antibodies to phosphorylated neurofilament heavy (NFHp), phosphorylation-independent neurofilament heavy (NFH), neurofilament light (NFL), neurofilament medium (NFM), microtubule, and microtubule-associated protein (MAP) were used to study the axonal cytoskeleton. Montages of confocal microscopy images were quantitatively analyzed to investigate simultaneous changes in optic nerve axonal transport and cytoskeletal proteins in the high-IOP and control eyes.RESULTS. Axonal transport of RITC was reduced in the prelaminar, lamina cribrosa, and proximal 400 mu m of the postlaminar optic nerve regions in the high-IOP eye. NFHp, NFM, and NFH were significantly reduced in the prelaminar, lamina cribrosa, and proximal postlaminar regions in the high-IOP eye. No differences in NFL, MAP, and tubulin staining were detected.CONCLUSIONS. Elevated IOP induced both axonal transport and cytoskeleton changes in the optic nerve head. Changes to the cytoskeleton may contribute to the axonal transport abnormalities that occur in elevated IOP.