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1.  Genome-wide association study and meta-analysis of intraocular pressure 
Human genetics  2013;133(1):41-57.
Elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) is a major risk factor for glaucoma and is influenced by genetic and environmental factors. Recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) reported associations with IOP at TMCO1 and GAS7, and with primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) at CDKN2B-AS1, CAV1/CAV2, and SIX1/SIX6. To identify novel genetic variants and replicate the published findings, we performed GWAS and meta-analysis of IOP in >6,000 subjects of European ancestry collected in three datasets: the NEI Glaucoma Human genetics collaBORation, GLAUcoma Genes and ENvironment study, and a subset of the Age-related Macular Degeneration-Michigan, Mayo, AREDS and Pennsylvania study. While no signal achieved genome-wide significance in individual datasets, a meta-analysis identified significant associations with IOP at TMCO1 (rs7518099-G, p = 8.0 × 10−8). Focused analyses of five loci previously reported for IOP and/or POAG, i.e., TMCO1, CDKN2B-AS1, GAS7, CAV1/CAV2, and SIX1/SIX6, revealed associations with IOP that were largely consistent across our three datasets, and replicated the previously reported associations in both effect size and direction. These results confirm the involvement of common variants in multiple genomic regions in regulating IOP and/or glaucoma risk.
PMCID: PMC3982323  PMID: 24002674
2.  Hypomethylation of the IL17RC Promoter in Peripheral Blood Leukocytes is Not A Hallmark of Age-Related Macular Degeneration 
Cell reports  2013;5(6):1527-1535.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of visual impairment worldwide. Aberrant DNA methylation within the promoter of IL17RC in peripheral blood mononuclear cells has recently been reported in AMD. To validate this association, we examined DNA methylation of the IL17RC promoter in peripheral blood. First, we used Illumina Human Methylation450 Bead Arrays, a widely-accepted platform for measuring global DNA methylation. Second, methylation status at multiple sites within the IL17RC promoter was determined by bisulfite pyrosequencing in two cohorts. Third, a methylation-sensitive QPCR-based assay was performed on a subset of samples. In contrast to previous findings, we did not find evidence of differential methylation between AMD cases and age-matched controls. We conclude that hypomethylation within the IL17RC gene promoter in peripheral blood is not suitable for use as a clinical biomarker of AMD. This study highlights the need for considerable replication of epigenetic association studies prior to clinical application.
PMCID: PMC3926096  PMID: 24373284
3.  Ciliopathy-associated gene Cc2d2a promotes assembly of subdistal appendages on the mother centriole during cilia biogenesis 
Nature communications  2014;5:4207.
The primary cilium originates from the mother centriole and participates in critical functions during organogenesis. Defects in cilia biogenesis or function lead to pleiotropic phenotypes. Mutations in centrosome-cilia gene CC2D2A result in Meckel and Joubert syndromes. Here we generate a Cc2d2a-/- mouse that recapitulates features of Meckel syndrome including embryonic lethality and multi-organ defects. Cilia are absent in Cc2d2a-/- embryonic node and other somatic tissues; disruption of cilia-dependent Shh signaling appears to underlie exencephaly in mutant embryos. The Cc2d2a-/- mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) lack cilia though mother centriole and pericentriolar proteins are detected. Odf2, associated with subdistal appendages, is absent and ninein is reduced in mutant MEFs. In Cc2d2a-/- MEFs, subdistal appendages are lacking or abnormal by transmission-EM. Consistent with this, CC2D2A localizes to subdistal appendages by immuno-EM in wild type cells. We conclude that CC2D2A is essential for the assembly of subdistal appendages, which anchor cytoplasmic microtubules and prime the mother centriole for axoneme biogenesis.
PMCID: PMC4096663  PMID: 24947469
4.  Age-Related Macular Degeneration: Genetics and Biology Coming Together 
Genetic and genomic studies have enhanced our understanding of complex neurodegenerative diseases that exert a devastating impact on individuals and society. One such disease, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), is a major cause of progressive and debilitating visual impairment. Since the pioneering discovery in 2005 of complement factor H (CFH) as a major AMD susceptibility gene, extensive investigations have confirmed 19 additional genetic risk loci, and more are anticipated. In addition to common variants identified by now-conventional genome-wide association studies, targeted genomic sequencing and exome-chip analyses are uncovering rare variant alleles of high impact. Here, we provide a critical review of the ongoing genetic studies and of common and rare risk variants at a total of 20 susceptibility loci, which together explain 40–60% of the disease heritability but provide limited power for diagnostic testing of disease risk. Identification of these susceptibility loci has begun to untangle the complex biological pathways underlying AMD pathophysiology, pointing to new testable paradigms for treatment.
PMCID: PMC4217162  PMID: 24773320
complex disease; genetic susceptibility; neurodegeneration; retina; blindness
5.  Genetic architecture of retinal and macular degenerative diseases: the promise and challenges of next-generation sequencing 
Genome Medicine  2013;5(10):84.
Inherited retinal degenerative diseases (RDDs) display wide variation in their mode of inheritance, underlying genetic defects, age of onset, and phenotypic severity. Molecular mechanisms have not been delineated for many retinal diseases, and treatment options are limited. In most instances, genotype-phenotype correlations have not been elucidated because of extensive clinical and genetic heterogeneity. Next-generation sequencing (NGS) methods, including exome, genome, transcriptome and epigenome sequencing, provide novel avenues towards achieving comprehensive understanding of the genetic architecture of RDDs. Whole-exome sequencing (WES) has already revealed several new RDD genes, whereas RNA-Seq and ChIP-Seq analyses are expected to uncover novel aspects of gene regulation and biological networks that are involved in retinal development, aging and disease. In this review, we focus on the genetic characterization of retinal and macular degeneration using NGS technology and discuss the basic framework for further investigations. We also examine the challenges of NGS application in clinical diagnosis and management.
PMCID: PMC4066589  PMID: 24112618
6.  Gene expression changes in aging retinal microglia: relationship to microglial support functions and regulation of activation 
Neurobiology of aging  2013;34(10):2310-2321.
Microglia, the resident immune cell of the central nervous system (CNS), are thought to contribute to the pathogenesis of age-related neurodegenerative disorders. It has been hypothesized that microglia undergo age-related changes in gene expression patterns that give rise to pathogenic phenotypes. We compared the gene expression profiles in microglia isolated ex vivo from the mouse retinas of ages ranging from early adulthood to late senescence. We discovered that microglial gene expression demonstrated progressive change with increasing age and involved genes that regulate microglial supportive functions and immune activation. Molecular pathways involving immune function and regulation, angiogenesis, and neurotrophin signaling demonstrated age-related change. In particular, expression levels of complement genes, C3 and CFB, previously associated with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), increased with aging, suggesting that senescent microglia may contribute to complement dysregulation during disease pathogenesis. Taken together, senescent microglia demonstrate age-related gene expression changes capable of altering their constitutive support functions and regulation of their activation status in ways relating to neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration in the CNS.
PMCID: PMC3706521  PMID: 23608111
aging; microglia; retina; microarray; gene expression; complement; activation; angiogenesis; neurotrophic factors; senescence
7.  Null and hypomorph Prickle1 alleles in mice phenocopy human Robinow syndrome and disrupt signaling downstream of Wnt5a 
Biology Open  2014;3(9):861-870.
Planar cell polarity (PCP) signaling plays a critical role in tissue morphogenesis. In mammals, disruption of three of the six “core PCP” components results in polarity-dependent defects with rotated cochlear hair cell stereocilia and open neural tube. We recently demonstrated a role of Prickle1, a core PCP molecule in Drosophila, in mammalian neuronal development. To examine Prickle1 function along a broader developmental window, we generated three mutant alleles in mice. We show that the complete loss of Prickle1 leads to systemic tissue outgrowth defects, aberrant cell organization and disruption of polarity machinery. Curiously, Prickle1 mutants recapitulate the characteristic features of human Robinow syndrome and phenocopy mouse mutants with Wnt5a or Ror2 gene defects, prompting us to explore an association of Prickle1 with the Wnt pathway. We show that Prickle1 is a proteasomal target of Wnt5a signaling and that Dvl2, a target of Wnt5a signaling, is misregulated in Prickle1 mutants. Our studies implicate Prickle1 as a key component of the Wnt-signaling pathway and suggest that Prickle1 mediates some of the WNT5A-associated genetic defects in Robinow syndrome.
PMCID: PMC4163663  PMID: 25190059
Planar cell polarity; Development; Morphogenesis; Organogenesis; Conditional mouse mutants
8.  Ancestry Estimation and Control of Population Stratification for Sequence-based Association Studies 
Nature genetics  2014;46(4):409-415.
Knowledge of individual ancestry is important for genetic association studies where population structure leads to false positive signals. Estimating individual ancestry with targeted sequence data, which constitutes the bulk of current sequence datasets, is challenging. Here, we propose a new method for accurate estimation of genetic ancestry. Our method skips genotype calling and directly analyzes sequence reads. We validate the method using simulated and empirical data and show that the method can accurately infer worldwide continental ancestry with whole genome shotgun coverage as low as 0.001X. For estimates of fine-scale ancestry within Europe, the method performs well with coverage of 0.1X. At an even finer-scale, the method improves discrimination between exome-sequenced participants originating from different provinces within Finland. Finally, we show that our method can be used to improve case-control matching in genetic association studies and reduce the risk of spurious findings due to population structure.
PMCID: PMC4084909  PMID: 24633160
9.  Prickle1 is expressed in distinct cell populations of the central nervous system and contributes to neuronal morphogenesis 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;22(11):2234-2246.
Development of axons and dendrites constitutes a critical event in neuronal maturation and seems to require signaling through the planar cell polarity (PCP) pathway. Mutations in components of the PCP pathway lead to a spectrum of neurological phenotypes and disorders. For example, a missense mutation in Prickle 1 (Pk1) is associated with progressive myoclonus epilepsy (PME) in humans, and its reduced gene dosage increases sensitivity to induced seizure in mice. In an effort to unravel the role of the PCP pathway in mammalian neuronal development, we examined the expression of Pk1 in the central nervous system (CNS) using in situ hybridization (ISH) in combination with a genetic knock-in approach. We show that Pk1 transcripts are detected in the postmitotic cells of the subplate and cortical plate during mid- and late stages of cortical neurogenesis. In adult brain, Pk1 is expressed in distinct neuronal and glial cell populations, with dynamic formation of dendrites and glial processes during development. Of all the cell types in the mature retina, the highest expression of Pk1 is detected in cholinergic amacrine neurons. Knockdown of Pk1 by shRNA or dominant-negative constructs causes reduced axonal and dendritic extension in hippocampal neurons. Similarly, Pk1 knockdown in neonatal retina leads to defects in inner and outer segments and axon terminals of photoreceptors. Our studies implicate Pk1 function in axonal-dendritic development associated with the maturation of CNS neurons.
PMCID: PMC3652420  PMID: 23420014
10.  Development and Plasticity of Outer Retinal Circuitry Following Genetic Removal of Horizontal Cells 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2013;33(45):17847-17862.
The present study examined the consequences of eliminating horizontal cells from the outer retina during embryogenesis upon the organization and assembly of the outer plexiform layer (OPL). Retinal horizontal cells exhibit a migration defect in Lim1-conditional knock-out (Lim1-CKO) mice and become mispositioned in the inner retina before birth, redirecting their dendrites into the inner plexiform layer. The resultant (mature) OPL, developing in the absence of horizontal cells, shows a retraction of rod spherules into the outer nuclear layer and a sprouting of rod bipolar cell dendrites to reach ectopic ribbon-protein puncta. Cone pedicles and the dendrites of type 7 cone bipolar cells retain their characteristic stratification and colocalization within the collapsed OPL, although both are atrophic and the spatial distribution of the pedicles is disrupted. Developmental analysis of Lim1-CKO retina reveals that components of the rod and cone pathways initially co-assemble within their normal strata in the OPL, indicating that horizontal cells are not required for the correct targeting of photoreceptor terminals or bipolar cell dendrites. As the rod spherules begin to retract during the second postnatal week, rod bipolar cells initially show no signs of ectopic growth, sprouting only subsequently and continuing to do so well after the eighth postnatal week. These results demonstrate the critical yet distinctive roles for horizontal cells on the rod and cone pathways and highlight a unique and as-yet-unrecognized maintenance function of an inhibitory interneuron that is not required for the initial targeting and co-stratification of other components in the circuit.
PMCID: PMC3818557  PMID: 24198374
11.  Identification of a Rare Coding Variant in Complement 3 Associated with Age-related Macular Degeneration 
Nature genetics  2013;45(11):10.1038/ng.2758.
Macular degeneration is a common cause of blindness in the elderly. To identify rare coding variants associated with a large increase in risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), we sequenced 2,335 cases and 789 controls in 10 candidate loci (57 genes). To increase power, we augmented our control set with ancestry-matched exome sequenced controls. An analysis of coding variation in 2,268 AMD cases and 2,268 ancestry matched controls revealed two large-effect rare variants; previously described R1210C in the CFH gene (fcase = 0.51%, fcontrol = 0.02%, OR = 23.11), and newly identified K155Q in the C3 gene (fcase = 1.06%, fcontrol = 0.39%, OR = 2.68). The variants suggest decreased inhibition of C3 by Factor H, resulting in increased activation of the alternative complement pathway, as a key component of disease biology.
PMCID: PMC3812337  PMID: 24036949
12.  CP110 Suppresses Primary Cilia Formation through its Interaction with CEP290, a Protein Deficient in Human Ciliary Disease 
Developmental cell  2008;15(2):187-197.
Primary cilia are non-motile organelles implicated in signaling and sensory functions. Understanding how primary cilia assemble could shed light on the many human diseases caused by mutations in ciliary proteins. The centrosomal protein CP110 is known to suppress ciliogenesis through an unknown mechanism. Here, we report that CP110 interacts with CEP290-a protein whose deficiency is implicated in human ciliary disease-in a discrete complex separable from other CP110 complexes involved in regulating the centrosome cycle. Ablation of CEP290 prevents ciliogenesis without affecting centrosome function or cell cycle progression. Interaction with CEP290 is absolutely required for the ability of CP110 to suppress primary cilia formation. Furthermore, CEP290 and CP110 interact with Rab8a, a small GTPase required for cilia assembly. Depletion of CEP290 interferes with localization of Rab8a to centrosomes and cilia. Our results suggest that CEP290 cooperates with Rab8a to promote ciliogenesis and this function is antagonized by CP110.
PMCID: PMC3987787  PMID: 18694559
CP110; CEP290; Rab8a; ciliogenesis; primary cilia
13.  Natural History of Cone Disease in the Murine Model of Leber Congenital Amaurosis Due to CEP290 Mutation: Determining the Timing and Expectation of Therapy 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e92928.
Mutations in the CEP290 (cilia-centrosomal protein 290 kDa) gene in Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) cause early onset visual loss but retained cone photoreceptors in the fovea, which is the potential therapeutic target. A cone-only mouse model carrying a Cep290 gene mutation, rd16;Nrl−/−, was engineered to mimic the human disease. In the current study, we determined the natural history of retinal structure and function in this murine model to permit design of pre-clinical proof-of-concept studies and allow progress to be made toward human therapy. Analyses of retinal structure and visual function in CEP290-LCA patients were also performed for comparison with the results in the model.
Rd16;Nrl−/− mice were studied in the first 90 days of life with optical coherence tomography (OCT), electroretinography (ERG), retinal histopathology and immunocytochemistry. Structure and function data from a cohort of patients with CEP290-LCA (n = 15; ages 7–48) were compared with those of the model.
CEP290-LCA patients retain a central island of photoreceptors with normal thickness at the fovea (despite severe visual loss); the extent of this island declined slowly with age. The rd16;Nrl−/− model also showed a relatively slow photoreceptor layer decline in thickness with ∼80% remaining at 3 months. The number of pseudorosettes also became reduced. By comparison to single mutant Nrl−/− mice, UV- and M-cone ERGs of rd16;Nrl−/− were at least 1 log unit reduced at 1 month of age and declined further over the 3 months of monitoring. Expression of GNAT2 and S-opsin also decreased with age.
The natural history of early loss of photoreceptor function with retained cone cell nuclei is common to both CEP290-LCA patients and the rd16;Nrl−/− murine model. Pre-clinical proof-of-concept studies for uniocular therapies would seem most appropriate to begin with intervention at P35–40 and re-study after one month by assaying interocular difference in the UV-cone ERG.
PMCID: PMC3966841  PMID: 24671090
14.  OTX2 loss causes rod differentiation defect in CRX-associated congenital blindness 
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 CRX lead to an autosomal dominant form of LCA. The mechanism of CRX-associated LCA is not understood. Here, we identified a spontaneous mouse mutant with a frameshift mutation in Crx (CrxRip). We determined that CrxRip is a dominant mutation that results in congenital blindness with nonrecordable response by ERG and arrested photoreceptor differentiation with no associated degeneration. Expression of LCA-associated dominant CRX frameshift mutations in mouse retina mimicked the CrxRip phenotype, which was rescued by overexpression of WT CRX. Whole-transcriptome profiling using deep RNA sequencing revealed progressive and complete loss of rod differentiation factor NRL in CrxRip retinas. Expression of NRL partially restored rod development in CrxRip/+ mice. We show that the binding of homeobox transcription factor OTX2 at the Nrl promoter was obliterated in CrxRip mice and ectopic expression of OTX2 rescued the rod differentiation defect. Together, our data indicate that OTX2 maintains Nrl expression in developing rods to consolidate rod fate. Our studies provide insights into CRX mutation-associated congenital blindness and should assist in therapeutic design.
PMCID: PMC3904630  PMID: 24382353
15.  Ablation of the X-Linked Retinitis Pigmentosa 2 (Rp2) Gene in Mice Results in Opsin Mislocalization and Photoreceptor Degeneration 
Mutations in the RP2 gene are associated with 10% to 15% of X-linked retinitis pigmentosa (XLRP), a debilitating disorder characterized by the degeneration of retinal rod and cone photoreceptors. The molecular mechanism of pathogenesis of photoreceptor degeneration in XLRP-RP2 has not been elucidated, and no treatment is currently available. This study was undertaken to investigate the pathogenesis of RP2-associated retinal degeneration.
We introduced loxP sites that flank exon 2, a mutational hotspot in XLRP-RP2, in the mouse Rp2 gene. We then produced Rp2-null allele using transgenic mice that expressed Cre-recombinase under control of the ubiquitous CAG promoter. Electroretinography (ERG), histology, light microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, and immunofluorescence microscopy were performed to ascertain the effect of ablation of Rp2 on photoreceptor development, function, and protein trafficking.
Although no gross abnormalities were detected in the Rp2null mice, photopic (cone) and scotopic (rod) function as measured by ERG showed a gradual decline starting as early as 1 month of age. We also detected slow progressive degeneration of the photoreceptor membrane discs in the mutant retina. These defects were associated with mislocalization of cone opsins to the nuclear and synaptic layers and reduced rhodopsin content in the outer segment of mutant retina prior to the onset of photoreceptor degeneration.
Our studies suggest that RP2 contributes to the maintenance of photoreceptor function and that cone opsin mislocalization represents an early step in XLRP caused by RP2 mutations. The Rp2null mice should serve as a useful preclinical model for testing gene- and cell-based therapies.
This study reports generation and characterization of a mouse model of Rp2-mediated retinal degeneration and shows that cone opsin mislocalization is an early step in the pathogenesis of associated disease.
PMCID: PMC3700388  PMID: 23745007
Rp2; retina; photoreceptor
16.  Genetic studies of Age-related macular degeneration: lessons, challenges and opportunities for disease management 
Ophthalmology  2012;119(12):2526-2536.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a common cause of visual impairment in individuals over 55 years of age worldwide. The varying clinical phenotypes of AMD result from contributions of genetic, epigenetic and non-genetic (environmental) factors. Genetic studies of AMD have come of age as a direct result of tremendous gains from human genome project, genomewide association studies and identification of numerous susceptibility loci. These findings have implicated immune response, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol metabolism, extracellular matrix, and angiogenesis signaling pathways in disease pathophysiology. Here, we address how the wealth of genetic findings in AMD is expected to impact the practice of medicine, providing opportunities for improved risk assessment, molecular diagnosis, preventive and therapeutic intervention. We propose that the potential of using genetic variants for monitoring treatment response (pharmacogenetics) may usher a new era of personalized medicine in the clinical management of AMD.
PMCID: PMC3514599  PMID: 23009893
Retinal neurodegeneration; Complex disease; Genomewide association; Risk factors; Genetic diagnosis; Pharmacogenetics; Clinical management
17.  An isoform of retinoid-related orphan receptor β directs differentiation of retinal amacrine and horizontal interneurons 
Nature communications  2013;4:1813.
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.
PMCID: PMC3671912  PMID: 23652001
orphan nuclear receptor; forkhead box transcription factor Foxn4; basic helix-loop-helix factor Ptf1a; neurogenesis; inhibitory interneuron
18.  Mutations in RPGR and RP2 Account for 15% of Males with Simplex Retinal Degenerative Disease 
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.
PMCID: PMC3522443  PMID: 23150612
19.  Regulation of retinal progenitor expansion by Frizzled receptors: implications for microphthalmia and retinal coloboma 
Human Molecular Genetics  2012;21(8):1848-1860.
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.
PMCID: PMC3313798  PMID: 22228100
20.  Global expression profiling of peripheral Qa-1-restricted CD8αα+TCRαβ+ regulatory T Cells reveals innate-like features: implications for immune regulatory repertoire 
Human Immunology  2011;73(3):214-222.
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.
PMCID: PMC3261310  PMID: 21889557
CD8+ Treg; EAE; Microarray; Innate cells; Qa-1/HLA-E
21.  Preservation of cone photoreceptors after a rapid yet transient degeneration and remodeling in cone-only Nrl−/− mouse retina 
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.
PMCID: PMC3567450  PMID: 22238088
22.  Complement factor H genetic variant and age-related macular degeneration: effect size, modifiers and relationship to disease subtype 
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.
PMCID: PMC3304526  PMID: 22253316
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD); Complement factor H gene; meta-ananlysis
23.  RPGR-Associated Retinal Degeneration in Human X-Linked RP and a Murine Model 
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.
PMCID: PMC3422104  PMID: 22807293
24.  A role for prenylated rab acceptor 1 in vertebrate photoreceptor development 
BMC Neuroscience  2012;13:152.
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.
PMCID: PMC3576285  PMID: 23241222
Retina; Photoreceptor; Mouse; Retinal degeneration; Photoreceptor development; Rabac1; Prenylated Rab Acceptor 1; Rab6; Vesicular trafficking
25.  Photoreceptor sensory cilia and ciliopathies: focus on CEP290, RPGR and their interacting proteins 
Cilia  2012;1:22.
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.
PMCID: PMC3563624  PMID: 23351659
Ciliopathy; Retinal degeneration; Primary cilium; Sensory cilia; CEP290; RPGR; Bardet–Biedl syndrome; Leber congenital amaurosis; Joubert syndrome; Nephronophthisis

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