The progressive death of retinal ganglion cells and resulting visual deficits are hallmarks of glaucoma, but the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. In many neurodegenerative diseases, cell death induced by primary insult is followed by a wave of secondary loss. Gap junctions (GJs), intercellular channels composed of subunit connexins, can play a major role in secondary cell death by forming conduits through which toxic molecules from dying cells pass to and injure coupled neighbors. Here we have shown that pharmacological blockade of GJs or genetic ablation of connexin 36 (Cx36) subunits, which are highly expressed by retinal neurons, markedly reduced loss of neurons and optic nerve axons in a mouse model of glaucoma. Further, functional parameters that are negatively affected in glaucoma, including the electroretinogram, visual evoked potential, visual spatial acuity, and contrast sensitivity, were maintained at control levels when Cx36 was ablated. Neuronal GJs may thus represent potential therapeutic targets to prevent the progressive neurodegeneration and visual impairment associated with glaucoma.
Abram Akopian, Sandeep Kumar, Hariharasubramanian Ramakrishnan, Kaushambi Roy, Suresh Viswanathan, Stewart A. Bloomfield
Photopharmacological control of neuronal activity using synthetic photochromic ligands, or photoswitches, is a promising approach for restoring visual function in patients suffering from degenerative retinal diseases. Azobenzene photoswitches, such as AAQ and DENAQ, have been shown to restore the responses of retinal ganglion cells to light in mouse models of retinal degeneration but do not recapitulate native retinal signal processing. Here, we describe diethylamino-azo-diethylamino (DAD), a third-generation photoswitch that is capable of restoring retinal ganglion cell light responses to blue or white light. In acute brain slices of murine layer 2/3 cortical neurons, we determined that the photoswitch quickly relaxes to its inactive form in the dark. DAD is not permanently charged, and the uncharged form enables the photoswitch to rapidly and effectively cross biological barriers and thereby access and photosensitize retinal neurons. Intravitreal injection of DAD restored retinal light responses and light-driven behavior to blind mice. Unlike DENAQ, DAD acts upstream of retinal ganglion cells, primarily conferring light sensitivity to bipolar cells. Moreover, DAD was capable of generating ON and OFF visual responses in the blind retina by utilizing intrinsic retinal circuitry, which may be advantageous for restoring visual function.
Laura Laprell, Ivan Tochitsky, Kuldeep Kaur, Michael B. Manookin, Marco Stein, David M. Barber, Christian Schön, Stylianos Michalakis, Martin Biel, Richard H. Kramer, Martin P. Sumser, Dirk Trauner, Russell N. Van Gelder
Duane retraction syndrome (DRS) is the most common form of congenital paralytic strabismus in humans and can result from α2-chimaerin (
Alicia A. Nugent, Jong G. Park, Yan Wei, Alan P. Tenney, Nicole M. Gilette, Michelle M. DeLisle, Wai-Man Chan, Long Cheng, Elizabeth C. Engle
Outer retinal and renal glomerular functions rely on specialized vasculature maintained by VEGF that is produced by neighboring epithelial cells, the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) and podocytes, respectively. Dysregulation of RPE- and podocyte-derived VEGF is associated with neovascularization in wet age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), choriocapillaris degeneration, and glomerular thrombotic microangiopathy (TMA). Since complement activation and genetic variants in inhibitory complement factor H (CFH) are also features of both ARMD and TMA, we hypothesized that VEGF and CFH interact. Here, we demonstrated that VEGF inhibition decreases local CFH and other complement regulators in the eye and kidney through reduced VEGFR2/PKC-α/CREB signaling. Patient podocytes and RPE cells carrying disease-associated CFH genetic variants had more alternative complement pathway deposits than controls. These deposits were increased by VEGF antagonism, a common wet ARMD treatment, suggesting that VEGF inhibition could reduce cellular complement regulatory capacity. VEGF antagonism also increased markers of endothelial cell activation, which was partially reduced by genetic complement inhibition. Together, these results suggest that VEGF protects the retinal and glomerular microvasculature, not only through VEGFR2-mediated vasculotrophism, but also through modulation of local complement proteins that could protect against complement-mediated damage. Though further study is warranted, these findings could be relevant for patients receiving VEGF antagonists.
Lindsay S. Keir, Rachel Firth, Lyndsey Aponik, Daniel Feitelberg, Susumu Sakimoto, Edith Aguilar, Gavin I. Welsh, Anna Richards, Yoshihiko Usui, Simon C. Satchell, Valeryia Kuzmuk, Richard J. Coward, Jonathan Goult, Katherine R. Bull, Ruchi Sharma, Kapil Bharti, Peter D. Westenskow, Iacovos P. Michael, Moin A. Saleem, Martin Friedlander
Primary congenital glaucoma (PCG) is a devastating eye disease and an important cause of childhood blindness worldwide. In PCG, defects in the anterior chamber aqueous humor outflow structures of the eye result in elevated intraocular pressure (IOP); however, the genes and molecular mechanisms involved in the etiology of these defects have not been fully characterized. Previously, we observed PCG-like phenotypes in transgenic mice that lack functional angiopoietin-TEK signaling. Herein, we identified rare
Tomokazu Souma, Stuart W. Tompson, Benjamin R. Thomson, Owen M. Siggs, Krishnakumar Kizhatil, Shinji Yamaguchi, Liang Feng, Vachiranee Limviphuvadh, Kristina N. Whisenhunt, Sebastian Maurer-Stroh, Tammy L. Yanovitch, Luba Kalaydjieva, Dimitar N. Azmanov, Simone Finzi, Lucia Mauri, Shahrbanou Javadiyan, Emmanuelle Souzeau, Tiger Zhou, Alex W. Hewitt, Bethany Kloss, Kathryn P. Burdon, David A. Mackey, Keri F. Allen, Jonathan B. Ruddle, Sing-Hui Lim, Steve Rozen, Khanh-Nhat Tran-Viet, Xiaorong Liu, Simon John, Janey L. Wiggs, Francesca Pasutto, Jamie E. Craig, Jing Jin, Susan E. Quaggin, Terri L. Young
Strategies aimed at invoking synaptic plasticity have therapeutic potential for several neurological conditions. The human retinal synaptic disease X-linked retinoschisis (XLRS) is characterized by impaired visual signal transmission through the retina and progressive visual acuity loss, and mice lacking retinoschisin (RS1) recapitulate human disease. Here, we demonstrate that restoration of RS1 via retina-specific delivery of adeno-associated virus type 8-
Jingxing Ou, Camasamudram Vijayasarathy, Lucia Ziccardi, Shan Chen, Yong Zeng, Dario Marangoni, Jodie G. Pope, Ronald A. Bush, Zhijian Wu, Wei Li, Paul A. Sieving
Emixustat is a visual cycle modulator that has entered clinical trials as a treatment for age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This molecule has been proposed to inhibit the visual cycle isomerase RPE65, thereby slowing regeneration of 11-
Jianye Zhang, Philip D. Kiser, Mohsen Badiee, Grazyna Palczewska, Zhiqian Dong, Marcin Golczak, Gregory P. Tochtrop, Krzysztof Palczewski
Oxidative stress contributes to the loss of neurons in many disease conditions as well as during normal aging; however, small-molecule agents that reduce oxidation have not been successful in preventing neurodegeneration. Moreover, even if an efficacious systemic reduction of reactive oxygen and/or nitrogen species (ROS/NOS) could be achieved, detrimental side effects are likely, as these molecules regulate normal physiological processes. A more effective and targeted approach might be to augment the endogenous antioxidant defense mechanism only in the cells that suffer from oxidation. Here, we created several adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors to deliver genes that combat oxidation. These vectors encode the transcription factors NRF2 and/or PGC1a, which regulate hundreds of genes that combat oxidation and other forms of stress, or enzymes such as superoxide dismutase 2 (SOD2) and catalase, which directly detoxify ROS. We tested the effectiveness of this approach in 3 models of photoreceptor degeneration and in a nerve crush model. AAV-mediated delivery of NRF2 was more effective than SOD2 and catalase, while expression of PGC1a accelerated photoreceptor death. Since the NRF2-mediated neuroprotective effects extended to photoreceptors and retinal ganglion cells, which are 2 very different types of neurons, these results suggest that this targeted approach may be broadly applicable to many diseases in which cells suffer from oxidative damage.
Wenjun Xiong, Alexandra E. MacColl Garfinkel, Yiqing Li, Larry I. Benowitz, Constance L. Cepko
Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is an inherited photoreceptor degenerative disorder that results in blindness. The disease is often caused by mutations in genes that are specific to rod photoreceptors; however, blindness results from the secondary loss of cones by a still unknown mechanism. Here, we demonstrated that the mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) is required to slow the progression of cone death during disease and that constitutive activation of mTORC1 in cones is sufficient to maintain cone function and promote long-term cone survival. Activation of mTORC1 in cones enhanced glucose uptake, retention, and utilization, leading to increased levels of the key metabolite NADPH. Moreover, cone death was delayed in the absence of the NADPH-sensitive cell death protease caspase 2, supporting the contribution of reduced NADPH in promoting cone death. Constitutive activation of mTORC1 preserved cones in 2 mouse models of RP, suggesting that the secondary loss of cones is caused mainly by metabolic deficits and is independent of a specific rod-associated mutation. Together, the results of this study address a longstanding question in the field and suggest that activating mTORC1 in cones has therapeutic potential to prolong vision in RP.
Aditya Venkatesh, Shan Ma, Yun Z. Le, Michael N. Hall, Markus A. Rüegg, Claudio Punzo
Mutations in the cellular retinaldehyde–binding protein (CRALBP, encoded by
Yunlu Xue, Susan Q. Shen, Jonathan Jui, Alan C. Rupp, Leah C. Byrne, Samer Hattar, John G. Flannery, Joseph C. Corbo, Vladimir J. Kefalov
Alternative splicing of nucleoredoxin-like 1 (
Leah C. Byrne, Deniz Dalkara, Gabriel Luna, Steven K. Fisher, Emmanuelle Clérin, Jose-Alain Sahel, Thierry Léveillard, John G. Flannery
Administration of glucocorticoids induces ocular hypertension in some patients. If untreated, these patients can develop a secondary glaucoma that resembles primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG). The underlying pathology of glucocorticoid-induced glaucoma is not fully understood, due in part to lack of an appropriate animal model. Here, we developed a murine model of glucocorticoid-induced glaucoma that exhibits glaucoma features that are observed in patients. Treatment of WT mice with topical ocular 0.1% dexamethasone led to elevation of intraocular pressure (IOP), functional and structural loss of retinal ganglion cells, and axonal degeneration, resembling glucocorticoid-induced glaucoma in human patients. Furthermore, dexamethasone-induced ocular hypertension was associated with chronic ER stress of the trabecular meshwork (TM). Similar to patients, withdrawal of dexamethasone treatment reduced elevated IOP and ER stress in this animal model. Dexamethasone induced the transcriptional factor CHOP, a marker for chronic ER stress, in the anterior segment tissues, and
Gulab S. Zode, Arti B. Sharma, Xiaolei Lin, Charles C. Searby, Kevin Bugge, Gun Hee Kim, Abbot F. Clark, Val C. Sheffield
Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) encompasses a set of early-onset blinding diseases that are characterized by vision loss, involuntary eye movement, and nonrecordable electroretinogram (ERG). At least 19 genes are associated with LCA, which is typically recessive; however, mutations in homeodomain transcription factor
Jerome E. Roger, Avinash Hiriyanna, Norimoto Gotoh, Hong Hao, Debbie F. Cheng, Rinki Ratnapriya, Marie-Audrey I. Kautzmann, Bo Chang, Anand Swaroop
Mutations in the human phosphatase and tensin homolog (
Caterina Sellitto, Leping Li, Junyuan Gao, Michael L. Robinson, Richard Z. Lin, Richard T. Mathias, Thomas W. White
Eosinophils are abundant in inflammatory demyelinating lesions in neuromyelitis optica (NMO). We used cell culture, ex vivo spinal cord slices, and in vivo mouse models of NMO to investigate the role of eosinophils in NMO pathogenesis and the therapeutic potential of eosinophil inhibitors. Eosinophils cultured from mouse bone marrow produced antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC) in cell cultures expressing aquaporin-4 in the presence of NMO autoantibody (NMO-IgG). In the presence of complement, eosinophils greatly increased cell killing by a complement-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (CDCC) mechanism. NMO pathology was produced in NMO-IgG–treated spinal cord slice cultures by inclusion of eosinophils or their granule toxins. The second-generation antihistamines cetirizine and ketotifen, which have eosinophil-stabilizing actions, greatly reduced NMO-IgG/eosinophil–dependent cytotoxicity and NMO pathology. In live mice, demyelinating NMO lesions produced by continuous intracerebral injection of NMO-IgG and complement showed marked eosinophil infiltration. Lesion severity was increased in transgenic hypereosinophilic mice. Lesion severity was reduced in mice made hypoeosinophilic by anti–IL-5 antibody or by gene deletion, and in normal mice receiving cetirizine orally. Our results implicate the involvement of eosinophils in NMO pathogenesis by ADCC and CDCC mechanisms and suggest the therapeutic utility of approved eosinophil-stabilizing drugs.
Hua Zhang, A.S. Verkman
Myopia is by far the most common human eye disorder that is known to have a clear, albeit poorly defined, heritable component. In this study, we describe an autosomal-recessive syndrome characterized by high myopia and sensorineural deafness. Our molecular investigation in 3 families led to the identification of 3 homozygous nonsense mutations (p.R181X, p.S297X, and p.Q414X) in SLIT and NTRK-like family, member 6 (
Mustafa Tekin, Barry A. Chioza, Yoshifumi Matsumoto, Oscar Diaz-Horta, Harold E. Cross, Duygu Duman, Haris Kokotas, Heather L. Moore-Barton, Kazuto Sakoori, Maya Ota, Yuri S. Odaka, Joseph Foster II, F. Basak Cengiz, Suna Tokgoz-Yilmaz, Oya Tekeli, Maria Grigoriadou, Michael B. Petersen, Ajith Sreekantan-Nair, Kay Gurtz, Xia-Juan Xia, Arti Pandya, Michael A. Patton, Juan I. Young, Jun Aruga, Andrew H. Crosby
The pathophysiology of the E150K mutation in the rod opsin gene associated with autosomal recessive retinitis pigmentosa (arRP) has yet to be determined. We generated knock-in mice carrying a single nucleotide change in exon 2 of the rod opsin gene resulting in the E150K mutation. This novel mouse model displayed severe retinal degeneration affecting rhodopsin’s stabilization of rod outer segments (ROS). Homozygous E150K (KK) mice exhibited early-onset retinal degeneration, with disorganized ROS structures, autofluorescent deposits in the subretinal space, and aberrant photoreceptor phagocytosis. Heterozygous (EK) mice displayed a delayed-onset milder retinal degeneration. Further, mutant receptors were mislocalized to the inner segments and perinuclear region. Though KK mouse rods displayed markedly decreased phototransduction, biochemical studies of the mutant rhodopsin revealed only minimally affected chromophore binding and G protein activation. Ablation of the chromophore by crossing KK mice with mice lacking the critical visual cycle protein LRAT slowed retinal degeneration, whereas blocking phototransduction by crossing KK mice with GNAT1-deficient mice slightly accelerated this process. This study highlights the importance of proper higher-order organization of rhodopsin in the native tissue and provides information about the signaling properties of this mutant rhodopsin. Additionally, these results suggest that patients heterozygous for the E150K mutation should be periodically reevaluated for delayed-onset retinal degeneration.
Ning Zhang, Alexander V. Kolesnikov, Beata Jastrzebska, Debarshi Mustafi, Osamu Sawada, Tadao Maeda, Christel Genoud, Andreas Engel, Vladimir J. Kefalov, Krzysztof Palczewski
Current therapies directed at controlling vascular abnormalities in cancers and neovascular eye diseases target VEGF and can slow the progression of these diseases. While the critical role of VEGF in development has been well described, the function of locally synthesized VEGF in the adult eye is incompletely understood. Here, we show that conditionally knocking out Vegfa in adult mouse retinal pigmented epithelial (RPE) cells, which regulate retinal homeostasis, rapidly leads to vision loss and ablation of the choriocapillaris, the major blood supply for the outer retina and photoreceptor cells. This deletion also caused rapid dysfunction of cone photoreceptors, the cells responsible for fine visual acuity and color vision. Furthermore, Vegfa deletion showed significant downregulation of multiple angiogenic genes in both physiological and pathological states, whereas the deletion of the upstream regulatory transcriptional factors HIFs did not affect the physiological expressions of angiogenic genes. These results suggest that endogenous VEGF provides critical trophic support necessary for retinal function. Targeting factors upstream of VEGF, such as HIFs, may be therapeutically advantageous compared with more potent and selective VEGF antagonists, which may have more off-target inhibitory trophic effects.
Toshihide Kurihara, Peter D. Westenskow, Stephen Bravo, Edith Aguilar, Martin Friedlander
Several lines of evidence suggest a link between age-related macular degeneration and retinal cholesterol maintenance. Cytochrome P450 27A1 (CYP27A1) is a ubiquitously expressed mitochondrial sterol 27-hydroxylase that plays an important role in the metabolism of cholesterol and cholesterol-related compounds. We conducted a comprehensive ophthalmic evaluation of mice lacking CYP27A1. We found that the loss of CYP27A1 led to dysregulation of retinal cholesterol homeostasis, including unexpected upregulation of retinal cholesterol biosynthesis. Cyp27a1–/– mice developed retinal lesions characterized by cholesterol deposition beneath the retinal pigment epithelium. Further, Cyp27a1-null mice showed pathological neovascularization, which likely arose from both the retina and the choroid, that led to the formation of retinal-choroidal anastomosis. Blood flow alterations and blood vessel leakage were noted in the areas of pathology. The Cyp27a1–/– retina was hypoxic and had activated Müller cells. We suggest a mechanism whereby abolished sterol 27-hydroxylase activity leads to vascular changes and identify Cyp27a1–/– mice as a model for one of the variants of type 3 retinal neovascularization occurring in some patients with age-related macular degeneration.
Saida Omarova, Casey D. Charvet, Rachel E. Reem, Natalia Mast, Wenchao Zheng, Suber Huang, Neal S. Peachey, Irina A. Pikuleva
Disruption of cellular processes affected by multiple genes and accumulation of numerous insults throughout life dictate the progression of age-related disorders, but their complex etiology is poorly understood. Postmitotic neurons, such as photoreceptor cells in the retina and epithelial cells in the adjacent retinal pigmented epithelium, are especially susceptible to cellular senescence, which contributes to age-related retinal degeneration (ARD). The multigenic and complex etiology of ARD in humans is reflected by the relative paucity of effective compounds for its early prevention and treatment. To understand the genetic differences that drive ARD pathogenesis, we studied A/J mice, which develop ARD more pronounced than that in other inbred mouse models. Although our investigation of consomic strains failed to identify a chromosome associated with the observed retinal deterioration, pathway analysis of RNA-Seq data from young mice prior to retinal pathological changes revealed that increased vulnerability to ARD in A/J mice was due to initially high levels of inflammatory factors and low levels of homeostatic neuroprotective factors. The genetic signatures of an uncompensated preinflammatory state and ARD progression identified here aid in understanding the susceptible genetic loci that underlie pathogenic mechanisms of age-associated disorders, including several human blinding diseases.
Debarshi Mustafi, Tadao Maeda, Hideo Kohno, Joseph H. Nadeau, Krzysztof Palczewski