Neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis (NCL) is a group of neurodegenerative lysosomal storage disorders characterized by vision loss, mental and motor deficits, and spontaneous seizures. Neuropathological analyses of autopsy material from NCL patients and animal models revealed brain atrophy closely associated with glial activity. Earlier reports also noticed loss of retinal cells and reactive gliosis in some forms of NCL. To study this phenomenon in detail, we analyzed the ocular phenotype of CLN6nclf mice, an established mouse model for variant-late infantile NCL. Retinal morphometry, immunohistochemistry, optokinetic tracking, electroretinography, and mRNA expression were used to characterize retinal morphology and function as well as the responses of Müller cells and microglia. Our histological data showed a severe and progressive degeneration in the CLN6nclf retina co-inciding with reactive Müller glia. Furthermore, a prominent phenotypic transformation of ramified microglia to phagocytic, bloated, and mislocalized microglial cells was identified in CLN6nclf retinas. These events overlapped with a rapid loss of visual perception and retinal function. Based on the strong microglia reactivity we hypothesized that dietary supplementation with immuno-regulatory compounds, curcumin and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), could ameliorate microgliosis and reduce retinal degeneration. Our analyses showed that treatment of three-week-old CLN6nclf mice with either 5% DHA or 0.6% curcumin for 30 weeks resulted in a reduced number of amoeboid reactive microglia and partially improved retinal function. DHA-treatment also improved the morphology of CLN6nclf retinas with a preserved thickness of the photoreceptor layer in most regions of the retina. Our results suggest that microglial reactivity closely accompanies disease progression in the CLN6nclf retina and both processes can be attenuated with dietary supplemented immuno-modulating compounds.
To determine if plasma metabolic profiles can detect differences between patients with neovascular age-related macular degeneration (NVAMD) and similarly-aged controls.
Metabolomic analysis using liquid chromatography with Fourier-transform mass spectrometry (LC-FTMS) was performed on plasma samples from 26 NVAMD patients and 19 controls. Data were collected from mass/charge ratio (m/z) 85 to 850 on a Thermo LTQ-FT mass spectrometer, and metabolic features were extracted using an adaptive processing software package. Both non-transformed and log2 transformed data were corrected using Benjamini and Hochberg False Discovery Rate (FDR) to account for multiple testing. Orthogonal Partial Least Squares-Discriminant Analysis was performed to determine metabolic features that distinguished NVAMD patients from controls. Individual m/z features were matched to the Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes database and the Metlin metabolomics database, and metabolic pathways associated with NVAMD were identified using MetScape.
Of the 1680 total m/z features detected by LC-FTMS, 94 unique m/z features were significantly different between NVAMD patients and controls using FDR (q = 0.05). A comparison of these features to those found with log2 transformed data (n = 132, q = 0.2) revealed 40 features in common, reaffirming the involvement of certain metabolites. Such metabolites included di- and tripeptides, covalently modified amino acids, bile acids, and vitamin D-related metabolites. Correlation analysis revealed associations among certain significant features, and pathway analysis demonstrated broader changes in tyrosine metabolism, sulfur amino acid metabolism, and amino acids related to urea metabolism.
These data suggest that metabolomic analysis can identify a panel of individual metabolites that differ between NVAMD cases and controls. Pathway analysis can assess the involvement of certain metabolic pathways, such as tyrosine and urea metabolism, and can provide further insight into the pathophysiology of AMD.
Amacrine and horizontal interneurons integrate visual information as it is relayed through the retina from the photoreceptors to the ganglion cells. The early steps that generate these interneuron networks remain unclear. Here we show that a distinct RORβ1 isoform encoded by the retinoid-related orphan nuclear receptor β gene (Rorb) is critical for both amacrine and horizontal cell differentiation in mice. A fluorescent protein cassette targeted into Rorb revealed RORβ1 as a novel marker of immature amacrine and horizontal cells and of undifferentiated, dividing progenitor cells. RORβ1-deficient mice lose expression of pancreas-specific transcription factor 1a (Ptf1a) but retain forkhead box n4 factor (Foxn4), two early-acting factors necessary for amacrine and horizontal cell generation. RORβ1 and Foxn4 synergistically induce Ptf1a expression, suggesting a central role for RORβ1 in a transcriptional hierarchy that directs this interneuron differentiation pathway. Moreover, ectopic RORβ1 expression in neonatal retina promotes amacrine cell differentiation.
orphan nuclear receptor; forkhead box transcription factor Foxn4; basic helix-loop-helix factor Ptf1a; neurogenesis; inhibitory interneuron
To determine the proportion of male patients presenting simplex retinal degenerative disease (RD: retinitis pigmentosa [RP] or cone/cone-rod dystrophy [COD/CORD]) with mutations in the X-linked retinal degeneration genes RPGR and RP2.
Simplex males were defined as patients with no known affected family members. Patients were excluded if they had a family history of parental consanguinity. Blood samples from a total of 214 simplex males with a diagnosis of retinal degeneration were collected for genetic analysis. The patients were screened for mutations in RPGR and RP2 by direct sequencing of PCR-amplified genomic DNA.
We identified pathogenic mutations in 32 of the 214 patients screened (15%). Of the 29 patients with a diagnosis of COD/CORD, four mutations were identified in the ORF15 mutational hotspot of the RPGR gene. Of the 185 RP patients, three patients had mutations in RP2 and 25 had RPGR mutations (including 12 in the ORF15 region).
This study represents mutation screening of RPGR and RP2 in the largest cohort, to date, of simplex males affected with RP or COD/CORD. Our results demonstrate a substantial contribution of RPGR mutations to retinal degenerations, and in particular, to simplex RP. Based on our findings, we suggest that RPGR should be considered as a first tier gene for screening isolated males with retinal degeneration.
Identification of mutations in 15% of the screened patients has important implications for guiding clinicians who are ordering genetic testing and provides a strong argument for screening the RPGR gene in simplex cases of retinal degenerative diseases.
Nineteen Wnt ligands and 10 Frizzled (Fz) receptors mediate multiple distinct cellular events during neuronal development. However, their precise roles in cell-type specification and organogenesis are poorly delineated because of overlapping functions and expression profiles. Here, we have explored the role of two closely related Frizzled receptors, Fz5 and Fz8, in mouse retinal development. We previously showed that Fz5−/− mice exhibit mild coloboma and microphthalmia at ∼50% penetrance. Fz8 expression overlaps with Fz5 in the neural retina and optic fissure/disc. Mice lacking Fz8 show minimal eye and retinal defects. The embryos lacking both Fz5 and Fz8 die early in development, but a majority of triallelic Fz5−/−;Fz8+/− mutants survive until birth. The triallelic mutant develops severe retinal coloboma and microphthalmia with full penetrance. At the cellular level, impaired neurogenesis is indicated by increased early-born retinal neurons that result from accelerated cell cycle exit of progenitors. Deficiency of apical retinal neuroepithelium is indicated by altered localization of apical junction markers, such as atypical protein kinase C, RhoA and β-catenin. Hes1 expression, which is critical for retinal progenitor expansion, is down-regulated in the triallelic mutant mouse. Furthermore, blocking Frizzled receptors in cultured retinal explants led to basally shifted divisions of retinal progenitors. Together, our studies suggest a dose-dependent regulation of signaling by Fz5 and Fz8 in optic fissure/disc formation and progenitor expansion.
Dominant mutations occurring in the high-affinity Ca2+-binding sites (EF-hands) of the GUCA1A gene encoding guanylate cyclase-activating protein 1 (GCAP1) cause slowly progressing cone-rod dystrophy (CORD) in a dozen families worldwide. We developed a nonallele-specific adeno-associated virus (AAV)-based RNAi knockdown strategy to rescue the retina degeneration caused by GCAP1 mutations. We generated three genomic transgenic mouse lines expressing wildtype (WT) and L151F mutant mouse GCAP1 with or without a C-terminal GFP fusion. Under control of endogenous regulatory elements, the transgenes were expressed specifically in mouse photoreceptors. GCAP1(L151F) and GCAP1(L151F)-GFP transgenic mice presented with a late onset and slowly progressive photoreceptor degeneration, similar to that observed in human GCAP1-CORD patients. Transgenic expression of WT GCAP1-EGFP in photoreceptors had no adverse effect. Toward therapy development, a highly effective anti-mGCAP1 shRNA, mG1hp4, was selected from four candidate shRNAs using an in-vitro screening assay. Subsequently a self-complementary (sc) AAV serotype 2/8 expressing mG1hp4 was delivered subretinally to GCAP1(L151F)-GFP transgenic mice. Knockdown of the GCAP1(L151F)-GFP transgene product was visualized by fluorescence live imaging in the scAAV2/8-mG1hp4-treated retinas. Concomitant with the mutant GCAP1-GFP fusion protein, endogenous GCAP1 decreased as well in treated retinas. We propose nonallele-specific RNAi knockdown of GCAP1 as a general therapeutic strategy to rescue any GCAP1-based dominant cone-rod dystrophy in human patients.
Among peripheral regulatory T cells, CD8+ T cells also play an important role in the maintenance of immune homeostasis. A subset of CD8+ Treg that express αβTCR and CD8αα homodimers can recognize TCR-derived peptides in the context of the class Ib MHC molecule Qa-1. To gain a better understanding of the nature and phenotype of CD8αα+TCRαβ+ Treg, a global gene expression profiling using microarray, real-time quantitative PCR, and flowcytometry analysis was performed using functional Treg clones and lines. Our data show that CD8+ Treg shared gene profile expressed by innate-like lymphocytes, including murine intraepithelial lymphocytes and thymic CD8αα+TCRαβ+ T cell populations. Additionally, this subset displays differential expression of several key regulatory molecules, including CD200. CD8αα+ Treg expressed higher levels of a number of NK cell related receptors and molecules belonging to the TNF superfamily. Collectively, peripheral class Ib-reactive CD8αα+TCRαβ+ T cells represent a unique regulatory population different from class Ia MHC-restricted conventional T cells. These studies have important implications for the regulatory mechanisms mediated by the CD8+ Treg population in general.
CD8+ Treg; EAE; Microarray; Innate cells; Qa-1/HLA-E
Carriers of blue cone monochromacy have fewer cone photoreceptors than normal. Here we examine how this disruption at the level of the retina affects visual function and cortical organization in these individuals. Visual resolution and contrast sensitivity was measured at the preferred retinal locus of fixation and visual resolution was tested at two eccentric locations (2.5° and 8°) with spectacle correction only. Adaptive optics corrected resolution acuity and cone spacing were simultaneously measured at several locations within the central fovea with adaptive optics scanning laser ophthalmoscopy (AOSLO). Fixation stability was assessed by extracting eye motion data from AOSLO videos. Retinotopic mapping using fMRI was carried out to estimate the area of early cortical regions, including that of the foveal confluence. Without adaptive optics correction, BCM carriers appeared to have normal visual function, with normal contrast sensitivity and visual resolution, but with AO-correction, visual resolution was significantly worse than normal. This resolution deficit is not explained by cone loss alone and is suggestive of an associated loss of retinal ganglion cells. However, despite evidence suggesting a reduction in the number of retinal ganglion cells, retinotopic mapping showed no reduction in the cortical area of the foveal confluence. These results suggest that ganglion cell density may not govern the foveal overrepresentation in the cortex. We propose that it is not the number of afferents, but rather the content of the information relayed to the cortex from the retina across the visual field that governs cortical magnification, as under normal viewing conditions this information is similar in both BCM carriers and normal controls.
Cone photoreceptors are the primary initiator of visual transduction in the human retina. Dysfunction or death of rod photoreceptors precedes cone loss in many retinal and macular degenerative diseases, suggesting a rod-dependent trophic support for cone survival. Rod differentiation and homeostasis are dependent on the basic motif leucine zipper transcription factor NRL. The loss of Nrl (Nrl−/−) in mice results in a retina with predominantly S-opsin containing cones that exhibit molecular and functional characteristics of WT cones. Here we report that Nrl−/− retina undergoes a rapid but transient period of degeneration in early adulthood, with cone apoptosis, retinal detachment, alterations in retinal vessel structure, and activation and translocation of retinal microglia. However, cone degeneration stabilizes by four months of age, resulting in a thinner but intact outer nuclear layer with residual cones expressing S- and M-opsins and a preserved photopic ERG. At this stage, microglia translocate back to the inner retina and reacquire a quiescent morphology. Gene profiling analysis during the period of transient degeneration reveals misregulation of genes related to stress response and inflammation, implying their involvement in cone death. The Nrl−/− mouse illustrates the long-term viability of cones in the absence of rods and RPE defects in a rodless retina. We propose that Nrl−/− retina may serve as a model for elucidating mechanisms of cone homeostasis and degeneration that would be relevant to understanding diseases of the cone-dominant human macula.
Background Variation in the complement factor H gene (CFH) is associated with risk of late age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Previous studies have been case–control studies in populations of European ancestry with little differentiation in AMD subtype, and insufficient power to confirm or refute effect modification by smoking.
Methods To precisely quantify the association of the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP rs1061170, ‘Y402H’) with risk of AMD among studies with differing study designs, participant ancestry and AMD grade and to investigate effect modification by smoking, we report two unpublished genetic association studies (n = 2759) combined with data from 24 published studies (26 studies, 26 494 individuals, including 14 174 cases of AMD) of European ancestry, 10 of which provided individual-level data used to test gene–smoking interaction; and 16 published studies from non-European ancestry.
Results In individuals of European ancestry, there was a significant association between Y402H and late-AMD with a per-allele odds ratio (OR) of 2.27 [95% confidence interval (CI) 2.10–2.45; P = 1.1 x 10−161]. There was no evidence of effect modification by smoking (P = 0.75). The frequency of Y402H varied by ancestral origin and the association with AMD in non-Europeans was less clear, limited by paucity of studies.
Conclusion The Y402H variant confers a 2-fold higher risk of late-AMD per copy in individuals of European descent. This was stable to stratification by study design and AMD classification and not modified by smoking. The lack of association in non-Europeans requires further verification. These findings are of direct relevance for disease prediction. New research is needed to ascertain if differences in circulating levels, expression or activity of factor H protein explain the genetic association.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD); Complement factor H gene; meta-ananlysis
We investigated the retinal disease due to mutations in the retinitis pigmentosa GTPase regulator (RPGR) gene in human patients and in an Rpgr conditional knockout (cko) mouse model.
XLRP patients with RPGR-ORF15 mutations (n = 35, ages at first visit 5–72 years) had clinical examinations, and rod and cone perimetry. Rpgr-cko mice, in which the proximal promoter and first exon were deleted ubiquitously, were back-crossed onto a BALB/c background, and studied with optical coherence tomography and electroretinography (ERG). Retinal histopathology was performed on a subset.
Different patterns of rod and cone dysfunction were present in patients. Frequently, there were midperipheral losses with residual rod and cone function in central and peripheral retina. Longitudinal data indicated that central rod loss preceded peripheral rod losses. Central cone-only vision with no peripheral function was a late stage. Less commonly, patients had central rod and cone dysfunction, but preserved, albeit abnormal, midperipheral rod and cone vision. Rpgr-cko mice had progressive retinal degeneration detectable in the first months of life. ERGs indicated relatively equal rod and cone disease. At late stages, there was greater inferior versus superior retinal degeneration.
RPGR mutations lead to progressive loss of rod and cone vision, but show different patterns of residual photoreceptor disease expression. Knowledge of the patterns should guide treatment strategies. Rpgr-cko mice had onset of degeneration at relatively young ages and progressive photoreceptor disease. The natural history in this model will permit preclinical proof-of-concept studies to be designed and such studies should advance progress toward human therapy.
Progress in treating canine RPGR disease prompted us to characterize patients with RPGR-ORF15 mutations and provide a detailed natural history of a novel Rpgr-mutant mouse for further proof-of-concept experiments.
The rd1 mouse retina is a well-studied model of retinal degeneration where rod photoreceptors undergo cell death beginning at postnatal day (P) 10 until P21. This period coincides with photoreceptor terminal differentiation in a normal retina. We have used the rd1 retina as a model to investigate early molecular defects in developing rod photoreceptors prior to the onset of degeneration.
Using a microarray approach, we performed gene profiling comparing rd1 and wild type (wt) retinas at four time points starting at P2, prior to any obvious biochemical or morphological differences, and concluding at P8, prior to the initiation of cell death. Of the 143 identified differentially expressed genes, we focused on Rab acceptor 1 (Rabac1), which codes for the protein Prenylated rab acceptor 1 (PRA1) and plays an important role in vesicular trafficking. Quantitative RT-PCR analysis confirmed reduced expression of PRA1 in rd1 retina at all time points examined. Immunohistochemical observation showed that PRA1-like immunoreactivity (LIR) co-localized with the cis-Golgi marker GM-130 in the photoreceptor as the Golgi translocated from the perikarya to the inner segment during photoreceptor differentiation in wt retinas. Diffuse PRA1-LIR, distinct from the Golgi marker, was seen in the distal inner segment of wt photoreceptors starting at P8. Both plexiform layers contained PRA1 positive punctae independent of GM-130 staining during postnatal development. In the inner retina, PRA1-LIR also colocalized with the Golgi marker in the perinuclear region of most cells. A similar pattern was seen in the rd1 mouse inner retina. However, punctate and significantly reduced PRA1-LIR was present throughout the developing rd1 inner segment, consistent with delayed photoreceptor development and abnormalities in Golgi sorting and vesicular trafficking.
We have identified genes that are differentially regulated in the rd1 retina at early time points, which may give insights into developmental defects that precede photoreceptor cell death. This is the first report of PRA1 expression in the retina. Our data support the hypothesis that PRA1 plays an important role in vesicular trafficking between the Golgi and cilia in differentiating and mature rod photoreceptors.
Retina; Photoreceptor; Mouse; Retinal degeneration; Photoreceptor development; Rabac1; Prenylated Rab Acceptor 1; Rab6; Vesicular trafficking
Ciliopathies encompass a broad array of clinical findings associated with genetic defects in biogenesis and/or function of the primary cilium, a ubiquitous organelle involved in the transduction of diverse biological signals. Degeneration or dysfunction of retinal photoreceptors is frequently observed in diverse ciliopathies. The sensory cilium in a photoreceptor elaborates into unique outer segment discs that provide extensive surface area for maximal photon capture and efficient visual transduction. The daily renewal of approximately 10% of outer segments requires a precise control of ciliary transport. Here, we review the ciliopathies with associated retinal degeneration, describe the distinctive structure of the photoreceptor cilium, and discuss mouse models that allow investigations into molecular mechanisms of cilia biogenesis and defects. We have specifically focused on two ciliary proteins – CEP290 and RPGR – that underlie photoreceptor degeneration and syndromic ciliopathies. Mouse models of CEP290 and RPGR disease, and of their multiple interacting partners, have helped unravel new functional insights into cell type-specific phenotypic defects in distinct ciliary proteins. Elucidation of multifaceted ciliary functions and associated protein complexes will require concerted efforts to assimilate diverse datasets from in vivo and in vitro studies. We therefore discuss a possible framework for investigating genetic networks associated with photoreceptor cilia biogenesis and pathology.
Ciliopathy; Retinal degeneration; Primary cilium; Sensory cilia; CEP290; RPGR; Bardet–Biedl syndrome; Leber congenital amaurosis; Joubert syndrome; Nephronophthisis
Mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells are derived from the inner cell mass of blastocyst stage embryos and are used primarily for the creation of genetically engineered strains through gene targeting. While some inbred strains of mice are permissive to the derivation of embryonic stem cell lines and are therefore easily engineered, others are nonpermissive or recalcitrant. Genetic engineering of recalcitrant strain backgrounds requires gene targeting in a permissive background followed by extensive backcrossing of the engineered allele into the desired strain background. The inbred mouse strain DBA/2J is a recalcitrant strain that is used as a model of many human diseases, including glaucoma, deafness and schizophrenia. Here, we describe the generation of germ-line competent ES cell lines derived from DBA/2J mice. We also demonstrate the utility of DBA/2J ES cells with the creation of conditional knockout allele for Endothelin-2 (Edn2) directly on the DBA/2J strain background.
The orphan nuclear receptor NR2E3 is a direct transcriptional target of NRL, the key basic motif leucine zipper transcription factor that dictates rod versus cone photoreceptor cell fate in the mammalian retina. The lack of NR2E3 function in humans and in retinal degeneration rd7 mutant mouse leads to increased S-cones accompanied by rod degeneration, whereas ectopic expression of Nr2e3 in the cone-only Nrl−/− retina generates rod-like cells that do not exhibit any visual function. Using GFP to tag the newborn rods and by 5-bromo-2′-deoxyuridine birthdating, we demonstrate that early-born post-mitotic photoreceptor precursors in the rd7 retina express cone-specific genes. Transgenic mouse studies in the rd7 background show that Nr2e3 when expressed under the control of Crx promoter can restore rod photoreceptor function and suppress cone gene expression. Furthermore, Nr2e3 expression in photoreceptor precursors committed to be rods (driven by the Nrl promoter) could completely rescue the retinal phenotype of the rd7 mice. We conclude that excess of S-cones in the rd7 retina originate from photoreceptor precursors with a ‘default’ fate and not from proliferation of cones and that Nr2e3 is required to suppress the expression of S-cone genes during normal rod differentiation. These studies further support the ‘transcriptional dominance’ model of photoreceptor cell fate determination and provide insights into the pathogenesis of retinal disease phenotypes caused by NR2E3 mutations.
Aging-associated neurodegenerative diseases significantly influence the quality of life of affected individuals. Genetic approaches, combined with genomic technology, have provided powerful insights into common late-onset diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Here, we discuss current findings on the genetics of AMD to highlight areas of rapid progress and new challenges. We also attempt to integrate available genetic and biochemical data with cellular pathways involved in aging to formulate an integrated model of AMD pathogenesis.
protein homeostasis; gene-environment interaction; genetic variation; neurodegeneration; neovascularization; animal models
Reprogramming somatic cells to a pluripotent state by nucleic acid based (NAB) approaches, involving the ectopic expression of transcription factors, has emerged as a standard method. We recently demonstrated that limbal progenitors that regenerate cornea are reprogrammable to pluripotency by a non-NAB approach through simple manipulation of microenvironment thus extending the possible therapeutic use of these readily accessible cells beyond the proven treatment of corneal diseases and injury. Therefore, to determine the validity and robustness of non-cell autonomous reprogramming of limbal progenitors for a wider clinical use, here, we have compared their reprogramming by non-NAB and NAB approaches. We observed that both approaches led to (1) the emergence of colonies displaying pluripotency markers, accompanied by a temporal reciprocal changes in limbal-specific and pluripotency gene expression, and (2) epigenetic alterations of Oct4 and Nanog, associated with the de-novo activation of their expression. While the efficiency of reprogramming and passaging of re-programmed cells were significantly better with the NAB approach, the non-NAB approach, in contrast, led to a regulated reprogramming of gene expression, and a significant decrease in the expression of Hormad1, a gene associated with immunogenic responses. The reprogramming efficiency by non-NAB approach was influenced by exosomes present in conditioned medium. Cells reprogrammed by both approaches were capable of differentiating along the three germ lineages and generating chimeras. The analysis suggests that both approaches are effective in reprogramming limbal progenitors but the non-NAB approach may be more suitable for potential clinical applications by averting the risk of insertional mutagenesis and immune responses associated with the NAB approach.
Mutations in Retinitis Pigmentosa GTPase Regulator (RPGR) are a frequent cause of X-linked Retinitis Pigmentosa (XLRP). The RPGR gene undergoes extensive alternative splicing and encodes for distinct protein isoforms in the retina. Extensive studies using isoform-specific antibodies and mouse mutants have revealed that RPGR predominantly localizes to the transition zone to primary cilia and associates with selected ciliary and microtubule-associated assemblies in photoreceptors. In this chapter, we have summarized recent advances on understanding the role of RPGR in photoreceptor protein trafficking. We also provide new evidence that suggests the existence of discrete RPGR multiprotein complexes in photoreceptors. Piecing together the RPGR-interactome in different subcellular compartments should provide critical insights into the role of alternative RPGR isoforms in associated orphan and syndromic retinal degenerative diseases.
Dysfunction of primary cilia due to mutations in cilia-centrosomal proteins is associated with pleiotropic disorders. The primary (or sensory) cilium of photoreceptors mediates polarized trafficking of proteins for efficient phototransduction. Retinitis pigmentosa GTPase regulator (RPGR) is a cilia-centrosomal protein mutated in >70% of X-linked RP cases and 10%–20% of simplex RP males. Accumulating evidence indicates that RPGR may facilitate the orchestration of multiple ciliary protein complexes. Disruption of these complexes due to mutations in component proteins is an underlying cause of associated photoreceptor degeneration. Here, we highlight the recent developments in understanding the mechanism of cilia-dependent photoreceptor degeneration due to mutations in RPGR and RPGR-interacting proteins in severe genetic diseases, including retinitis pigmentosa, Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA), Joubert syndrome, and Senior–Loken syndrome, and explore the physiological relevance of photoreceptor ciliary protein complexes.
primary cilia; centrosome; transition zone; ciliopathies; photoreceptor; retinal degeneration; retina; RPGR; RP2; CEP290; RPGRIP1L; NPHP
To assess the phenotype of X-linked retinitis pigmentosa (XLRP) patients with RP2 mutations and correlate the findings with their genotype.
An identifiable phenotype for RP2-XLRP aids in clinical diagnosis and targeted genetic screening.
Over 600 XLRP patients and carriers were screened during a ten-year period for mutations in the RP2 gene. Twenty-five RP2 patients were evaluated clinically with standardized electroretinography (ERG), Goldmann visual fields, and ocular examinationsl. In addition, well documented cases from the literature were used to augment genotype-phenotype correlations.
In our male cohort under the age of 12 years: 10/11 (91%) patients had macular involvement and 10/11 (91%) had best corrected visual acuities worse than 20/50. Two males from different families (ages 8 and 12) displayed a choroideremia-like fundus, and 9/11( 82%) of male patients were myopic with a mean error of −7.97D. Of patients with ERG data, 9/10 (90%) demonstrated severe rod-cone dysfunction. All three female carriers had macular atrophy in one or both eyes and were myopic (mean −6.23 D). We identified four novel RP2 mutations. All nine nonsense and five of seven missense mutations (71%) resulted in severe clinical presentations.
Screening of the RP2 gene should be prioritized in patients less than 16 years of age characterized by X-linked inheritance, decreased BCVA (e.g.,>20/40), high myopia, and early-onset macular atrophy. We also suggest that patients exhibiting a choroideremia-like fundus appearance who do not have disease-causing mutations in the choroideremia gene (CHM) be screened for variations in RP2. We believe that alterations in function play a significant role in RP2-associated disease pathogenesis.
Variation in the apolipoprotein E gene (APOE) has been reported to be associated with longevity in humans. The authors assessed the allelic distribution of APOE isoforms ε2, ε3, and ε4 among 10,623 participants from 15 case-control and cohort studies of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in populations of European ancestry (study dates ranged from 1990 to 2009). The authors included only the 10,623 control subjects from these studies who were classified as having no evidence of AMD, since variation within the APOE gene has previously been associated with AMD. In an analysis stratified by study center, gender, and smoking status, there was a decreasing frequency of the APOE ε4 isoform with increasing age (χ2 for trend = 14.9 (1 df); P = 0.0001), with a concomitant increase in the ε3 isoform (χ2 for trend = 11.3 (1 df); P = 0.001). The association with age was strongest in ε4 homozygotes; the frequency of ε4 homozygosity decreased from 2.7% for participants aged 60 years or less to 0.8% for those over age 85 years, while the proportion of participants with the ε3/ε4 genotype decreased from 26.8% to 17.5% across the same age range. Gender had no significant effect on the isoform frequencies. This study provides strong support for an association of the APOE gene with human longevity.
aged; apolipoprotein E2; apolipoprotein E3; apolipoprotein E4; apolipoproteins E; longevity; meta-analysis; multicenter study
Complement factor D catalyzes a critical step in the alternative complement activation pathway. The authors report a significant elevation in plasma CFD concentrations in age-related macular degeneration (AMD) patients compared with controls and a weak genetic association between CFD gene variants and AMD.
To examine the role of complement factor D (CFD) in age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by analysis of genetic association, copy number variation, and plasma CFD concentrations.
Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the CFD gene were genotyped and the results analyzed by binary logistic regression. CFD gene copy number was analyzed by gene copy number assay. Plasma CFD was measured by an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.
Genetic association was found between CFD gene SNP rs3826945 and AMD (odds ratio 1.44; P = 0.028) in a small discovery case-control series (462 cases and 325 controls) and replicated in a combined cohorts meta-analysis of 4765 cases and 2693 controls, with an odds ratio of 1.11 (P = 0.032), with the association almost confined to females. Copy number variation in the CFD gene was identified in 13 out of 640 samples examined but there was no difference in frequency between AMD cases (1.3%) and controls (2.7%). Plasma CFD concentration was measured in 751 AMD cases and 474 controls and found to be elevated in AMD cases (P = 0.00025). The odds ratio for those in the highest versus lowest quartile for plasma CFD was 1.81. The difference in plasma CFD was again almost confined to females.
CFD regulates activation of the alternative complement pathway, which is implicated in AMD pathogenesis. The authors found evidence for genetic association between a CFD gene SNP and AMD and a significant increase in plasma CFD concentration in AMD cases compared with controls, consistent with a role for CFD in AMD pathogenesis.
Animal models of human disease are an invaluable component of studies aimed at understanding disease pathogenesis and therapeutic possibilities. Mutations in the gene encoding retinitis pigmentosa GTPase regulator (RPGR) are the most common cause of X-linked retinitis pigmentosa (XLRP) and are estimated to cause 20% of all retinal dystrophy cases. A majority of RPGR mutations are present in ORF15, the purine-rich terminal exon of the predominant splice-variant expressed in retina. Here we describe the genetic and phenotypic characterization of the retinal degeneration 9 (Rd9) strain of mice, a naturally occurring animal model of XLRP. Rd9 mice were found to carry a 32-base-pair duplication within ORF15 that causes a shift in the reading frame that introduces a premature-stop codon. Rpgr ORF15 transcripts, but not protein, were detected in retinas from Rd9/Y male mice that exhibited retinal pathology, including pigment loss and slowly progressing decrease in outer nuclear layer thickness. The levels of rhodopsin and transducin in rod outer segments were also decreased, and M-cone opsin appeared mislocalized within cone photoreceptors. In addition, electroretinogram (ERG) a- and b-wave amplitudes of both Rd9/Y male and Rd9/Rd9 female mice showed moderate gradual reduction that continued to 24 months of age. The presence of multiple retinal features that correlate with findings in individuals with XLRP identifies Rd9 as a valuable model for use in gaining insight into ORF15-associated disease progression and pathogenesis, as well as accelerating the development and testing of therapeutic strategies for this common form of retinal dystrophy.
A stringent control of homeostasis is critical for functional maintenance and survival of neurons. In the mammalian retina, the basic motif leucine zipper transcription factor NRL determines rod versus cone photoreceptor cell fate and activates the expression of many rod-specific genes. Here, we report an integrated analysis of NRL-centered gene regulatory network by coupling chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by high-throughput sequencing (ChIP–Seq) data from Illumina and ABI platforms with global expression profiling and in vivo knockdown studies. We identified approximately 300 direct NRL target genes. Of these, 22 NRL targets are associated with human retinal dystrophies, whereas 95 mapped to regions of as yet uncloned retinal disease loci. In silico analysis of NRL ChIP–Seq peak sequences revealed an enrichment of distinct sets of transcription factor binding sites. Specifically, we discovered that genes involved in photoreceptor function include binding sites for both NRL and homeodomain protein CRX. Evaluation of 26 ChIP–Seq regions validated their enhancer functions in reporter assays. In vivo knockdown of 16 NRL target genes resulted in death or abnormal morphology of rod photoreceptors, suggesting their importance in maintaining retinal function. We also identified histone demethylase Kdm5b as a novel secondary node in NRL transcriptional hierarchy. Exon array analysis of flow-sorted photoreceptors in which Kdm5b was knocked down by shRNA indicated its role in regulating rod-expressed genes. Our studies identify candidate genes for retinal dystrophies, define cis-regulatory module(s) for photoreceptor-expressed genes and provide a framework for decoding transcriptional regulatory networks that dictate rod homeostasis.
The rod and cone photoreceptors in the retina are highly specialized neurons that capture photons under dim and bright light, respectively. Loss of rod photoreceptors is an early clinical manifestation in most retinal neurodegenerative diseases that eventually result in cone cell death and blindness. The transcription factor NRL is a key regulator of rod photoreceptor cell fate and gene expression. Here, we report an integrated analysis of the global transcriptional targets of NRL. We have discovered that both NRL and CRX binding sites are present in genes involved in photoreceptor function, implying their close synergistic relationship. In vivo loss-of-function analysis of 16 NRL target genes in the mouse retina resulted in death or abnormal morphology of photoreceptor cells. Furthermore, we identified histone demethylase Kdm5b as a secondary node in the NRL-centered gene regulatory network. Our studies identify NRL target genes as excellent candidates for mutation screening of patients with retinal degenerative diseases, and they provide the foundation for elucidating regulation of rod homeostasis and targets for therapeutic intervention in diseases involving photoreceptor dysfunction.