This study aimed to determine the protective effects of tetrandrine (Tet) on murine ischemia-injured retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). For this, we used serum deprivation cell model, glutamate and hydrogen peroxide (H 2O 2)-induced RGC-5 cell death models, and staurosporine-differentiated neuron-like RGC-5 in vitro. We also investigated cell survival of purified primary-cultured RGCs treated with Tet. An in vivo retinal ischemia/reperfusion model was used to examine RGC survival after Tet administration 1 day before ischemia. We found that Tet affected RGC-5 survival in a dose- and time-dependent manner. Compared to dimethyl sulfoxide treatment, Tet increased the numbers of RGC-5 cells by 30% at 72 hours. After 48 hours, Tet protected staurosporine-induced RGC-5 cells from serum deprivation-induced cell death and significantly increased the relative number of cells cultured with 1 mM H 2O 2 ( P<0.01). Several concentrations of Tet significantly prevented 25-mM-glutamate-induced cell death in a dose-dependent manner. Tet also increased primary RGC survival after 72 and 96 hours. Tet administration (10 μM, 2 μL) 1 day before retinal ischemia showed RGC layer loss (greater survival), which was less than those in groups with phosphate-buffered saline intravitreal injection plus ischemia in the central ( P=0.005, n=6), middle ( P=0.018, n=6), and peripheral ( P=0.017, n=6) parts of the retina. Thus, Tet conferred protective effects on serum deprivation models of staurosporine-differentiated neuron-like RGC-5 cells and primary cultured murine RGCs. Furthermore, Tet showed greater in vivo protective effects on RGCs 1 day after ischemia. Tet and ciliary neurotrophic factor maintained the mitochondrial transmembrane potential (ΔΨm) of primary cultured RGCs and inhibited the expression of activated caspase-3 and bcl-2 in ischemia/reperfusion-insult retinas.