Objective To explore the effects of drugs on functions of mitochondria in retinal nerve cells, and to lay a foundation of the investigation of drug protection for retinal nerve cells. Methods Cultivation of the retinal nerve cells of 8 eyes of neonatal calves was performed. The changes of fluorescent density of the mitochondria of cultured cells labeled by dye rhodamine 123 (Rh123) before and after the activation of the medicines, including ferulic acid (FA), arginine, glycine, taurine, vitamine E and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) respectively, were detected by laser-scanning confocal microscopy. Results FA with the concentration of 500 μg/ml led the diphasic variation of the fluorescent intensity of mitochondria. After scanning for 60.772 seconds when treated with FA firstly, the fluorescent intensity decreased rapidly (from 45.425±4.153 to 22.135±5.293); while after 112.774 seconds when treated secondly, the intensity increased obviously (from 19.655±4.383 to 28.247±4.764), and after 168.773 seconds when treated thirdly the intensity still increased. After scanning for 56.457 seconds when treated with vitamin E (12.
5 mg/ml), the fluorescent intensity increased obviously (from 88.255±5.039 to 111.273±4.529), which suggested that vitamin E with the concentration of 12.5 mg/ml strengthen the fluorescent intensity. After scanning for 58.147 and 134.148 seconds when treated with BDNF (50 ng/ml) respectively, the fluorescent intensity increased obviously (from 69.115±5.038 to 77.225±5.131) which suggested that BDNF with the concentration of 50 ng/ml led the increase of the fluorescent intensity. Glycine (2.5 mg/ml) and arginine(30 mg/ml) didn't affect the fluorescent intensity of mitochondria, and taurine (6.25 mg/ml) caused the appreciable decrease of the fluorescent intensity. Conclusion FA, BDNF and vitamin E may promote the metabolism of retinal nerve cells via the path of mitochondria, while amino acids may adjust the activation of retinal nerve cells through other ways.