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1.  α-Melanocyte-Stimulating Hormone Protects Retinal Vascular Endothelial Cells from Oxidative Stress and Apoptosis in a Rat Model of Diabetes 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e93433.
Aims
Oxidative stress and apoptosis are among the earliest lesions of diabetic retinopathy. This study sought to examine the anti-oxidative and anti-apoptotic effects of α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (α-MSH) in early diabetic retinas and to explore the underlying mechanisms in retinal vascular endothelial cells.
Methods
Sprague-Dawley rats were injected intravenously with streptozocin to induce diabetes. The diabetic rats were injected intravitreally with α-MSH or saline. At week 5 after diabetes, the retinas were analyzed for reactive oxygen species (ROS) and gene expression. One week later, the retinas were processed for terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick-end labeling staining and transmission electron microscopy. Retinal vascular endothelial cells were stimulated by high glucose (HG) with or without α-MSH. The expression of Forkhead box O genes (Foxos) was examined through real-time PCR. The Foxo4 gene was overexpressed in endothelial cells by transient transfection prior to α-MSH or HG treatment, and oxidative stress and apoptosis were analyzed through CM-H2DCFDA and annexin-V assays, respectively.
Results
In diabetic retinas, the levels of H2O2 and ROS and the total anti-oxidant capacity were normalized, the apoptotic cell number was reduced, and the ultrastructural injuries were ameliorated by α-MSH. Treatment with α-MSH also corrected the aberrant changes in eNOS, iNOS, ICAM-1, and TNF-α expression levels in diabetic retinas. Furthermore, α-MSH inhibited Foxo4 up-regulation in diabetic retinas and in endothelial cells exposed to HG, whereas Foxo4 overexpression abrogated the anti-oxidative and anti-apoptotic effects of α-MSH in HG-stimulated retinal vascular endothelial cells.
Conclusions
α-MSH normalized oxidative stress, reduced apoptosis and ultrastructural injuries, and corrected gene expression levels in early diabetic retinas. The protective effects of α-MSH in retinal vascular endothelial cells may be mediated through the inhibition of Foxo4 up-regulation induced by HG. This study suggests an α-MSH-mediated potential intervention approach to early diabetic retinopathy and a novel regulatory mechanism involving Foxo4.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0093433
PMCID: PMC3973693  PMID: 24695675
2.  L-Glutamine Supplementation Prevents the Development of Experimental Diabetic Cardiomyopathy in Streptozotocin-Nicotinamide Induced Diabetic Rats 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e92697.
The objective of the present investigation was to evaluate the effect of L-glutamine on cardiac myopathy in streptozotocin-nicotinamide induced diabetic rats. Diabetes was induced in overnight fasted Sprague Dawely rats by using intraperitonial injection of streptozotocin (55 mg/kg). Nicotinamide (100 mg/kg, i.p.) was administered 20 min before administration of streptozotocin. Experimental rats were divided into Group I: non-diabetic control (distilled water; 10 ml/kg, p.o.), II: diabetic control (distilled water, 10 ml/kg, p.o.), III: L-glutamine (500 mg/kg, p.o.) and IV: L-glutamine (1000 mg/kg, p.o.). All groups were diabetic except group I. The plasma glucose level, body weight, electrocardiographic abnormalities, hemodynamic changes and left ventricular contractile function, biological markers of cardiotoxicity, antioxidant markers were determined after 4 months after STZ with nicotinamide injection. Histopathological changes of heart tissue were carried out by using H and E stain. L-glutamine treatment improved the electrocardiographic, hemodynamic changes; LV contractile function; biological markers; oxidative stress parameters and histological changes in STZ induced diabetic rats. Results from the present investigation demonstrated that L-glutamine has seemed a cardioprotective activity.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0092697
PMCID: PMC3961427  PMID: 24651718
3.  Age at Diagnosis and C-Peptide Level Are Associated with Diabetic Retinopathy in Chinese 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e91174.
Objective
To find the associations between diabetic retinopathy and age at diagnosis, C-peptide level and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) level in Chinese type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Methods
3100 hospitalized type 2 diabetic patients in Peking University People's Hospital were included in this retrospective study. Their medical history and the laboratory data were collected. All the patients received examination of diabetic retinopathy (DR) by professional ophthalmologist.
Results
Comparisons among patients with NDR, NPDR and PDR showed that with the progression of diabetic retinopathy, patients turned to have older age but younger age at diagnosis of diabetes, and have higher SBP, longer duration of diabetes, higher mean HbA1c but lower fasting and 2 hours postprandial C-peptide level. Moreover, with the progression of diabetic retinopathy, patients turned to have higher prevalence of primary hypertension, higher prevalence of peripheral vascular sclerosis, higher proportion with insulin treatment. TSH level was comparable among the three groups of patients. Association analysis showed that after adjusting for age, sex, duration of diabetes, body mass index, HbA1c, blood pressure and albuminurea creatinine ratio and insulin treatment, age at diagnosis (OR 0.888, 95%CI 0.870–0.907, p = 0.00) and postprandial C-peptide (OR 0.920, 95%CI 0.859–0.937, p = 0.00) are the independent associated factors of DR in Chinese type 2 diabetes.
Conclusions
According to the results, postprandial C-peptide level and age at diabetes may be two independent associated factors with DR in Chinese type 2 diabetes. The lower level of postprandial C-peptide, the younger age at diagnosis, may indicate the higher prevalence of DR.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0091174
PMCID: PMC3948781  PMID: 24614131
4.  T Cells and Macrophages Responding to Oxidative Damage Cooperate in Pathogenesis of a Mouse Model of Age-Related Macular Degeneration 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e88201.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a major disease affecting central vision, but the pathogenic mechanisms are not fully understood. Using a mouse model, we examined the relationship of two factors implicated in AMD development: oxidative stress and the immune system. Carboxyethylpyrrole (CEP) is a lipid peroxidation product associated with AMD in humans and AMD-like pathology in mice. Previously, we demonstrated that CEP immunization leads to retinal infiltration of pro-inflammatory M1 macrophages before overt retinal degeneration. Here, we provide direct and indirect mechanisms for the effect of CEP on macrophages, and show for the first time that antigen-specific T cells play a leading role in AMD pathogenesis. In vitro, CEP directly induced M1 macrophage polarization and production of M1-related factors by retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells. In vivo, CEP eye injections in mice induced acute pro-inflammatory gene expression in the retina and human AMD eyes showed distinctively diffuse CEP immunolabeling within RPE cells. Importantly, interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) and interleukin-17 (IL-17)-producing CEP-specific T cells were identified ex vivo after CEP immunization and promoted M1 polarization in co-culture experiments. Finally, T cell immunosuppressive therapy inhibited CEP-mediated pathology. These data indicate that T cells and M1 macrophages activated by oxidative damage cooperate in AMD pathogenesis.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0088201
PMCID: PMC3929609  PMID: 24586307
5.  Complex I Function and Supercomplex Formation Are Preserved in Liver Mitochondria Despite Progressive Complex III Deficiency 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e86767.
Functional oxidative phosphorylation requires appropriately assembled mitochondrial respiratory complexes and their supercomplexes formed mainly of complexes I, III and IV. BCS1L is the chaperone needed to incorporate the catalytic subunit, Rieske iron-sulfur protein, into complex III at the final stage of its assembly. In cell culture studies, this subunit has been considered necessary for supercomplex formation and for maintaining the stability of complex I. Our aim was to assess the importance of fully assembled complex III for supercomplex formation in intact liver tissue. We used our transgenic mouse model with a homozygous c.232A>G mutation in Bcs1l leading to decreased expression of BCS1L and progressive decrease of Rieske iron-sulfur protein in complex III, resulting in hepatopathy. We studied supercomplex formation at different ages using blue native gel electrophoresis and complex activity using high-resolution respirometry. In isolated liver mitochondria of young and healthy homozygous mutant mice, we found similar supercomplexes as in wild type. In homozygotes aged 27–29 days with liver disorder, complex III was predominantly a pre-complex lacking Rieske iron-sulfur protein. However, the main supercomplex was clearly detected and contained complex III mainly in the pre-complex form. Oxygen consumption of complex IV was similar and that of complex I was twofold compared with controls. These complexes in free form were more abundant in homozygotes than in controls, and the mRNA of complex I subunits were upregulated. In conclusion, when complex III assembly is deficient, the pre-complex without Rieske iron-sulfur protein can participate with available fully assembled complex III in supercomplex formation, complex I function is preserved, and respiratory chain stability is maintained.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0086767
PMCID: PMC3899299  PMID: 24466228
6.  Tumorigenicity Studies of Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell (iPSC)-Derived Retinal Pigment Epithelium (RPE) for the Treatment of Age-Related Macular Degeneration 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e85336.
Basic studies of human pluripotential stem cells have advanced rapidly and stem cell products are now seeing therapeutic applications. However, questions remain regarding the tumorigenic potential of such cells. Here, we report the tumorigenic potential of induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) for the treatment of wet-type, age-related macular degeneration (AMD). First, immunodeficient mouse strains (nude, SCID, NOD-SCID and NOG) were tested for HeLa cells’ tumor-forming capacity by transplanting various cell doses subcutaneously with or without Matrigel. The 50% Tumor Producing Dose (TPD50 value) is the minimal dose of transplanted cells that generated tumors in 50% of animals. For HeLa cells, the TPD50 was the lowest when cells were embedded in Matrigel and transplanted into NOG mice (TPD50 = 101.1, n = 75). The TPD50 for undifferentiated iPSCs transplanted subcutaneously to NOG mice in Matrigel was 102.12; (n = 30). Based on these experiments, 1×106 iPSC-derived RPE were transplanted subcutaneously with Matrigel, and no tumor was found during 15 months of monitoring (n = 65). Next, to model clinical application, we assessed the tumor-forming potential of HeLa cells and iPSC 201B7 cells following subretinal transplantation of nude rats. The TPD50 for iPSCs was 104.73 (n = 20) and for HeLa cells 101.32 (n = 37) respectively. Next, the tumorigenicity of iPSC-derived RPE was tested in the subretinal space of nude rats by transplanting 0.8–1.5×104 iPSC-derived RPE in a collagen-lined (1 mm×1 mm) sheet. No tumor was found with iPSC-derived RPE sheets during 6–12 months of monitoring (n = 26). Considering the number of rodents used, the monitoring period, the sensitivity of detecting tumors via subcutaneous and subretinal administration routes and the incidence of tumor formation from the iPSC-derived RPE, we conclude that the tumorigenic potential of the iPSC-derived RPE was negligible.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0085336
PMCID: PMC3891869  PMID: 24454843
7.  Molecular Crowding Inhibits U-Insertion/Deletion RNA Editing In Vitro: Consequences for the In Vivo Reaction 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e83796.
Mitochondrial pre-mRNAs in African trypanosomes are edited to generate functional transcripts. The reaction is typified by the insertion and deletion of U nucleotides and is catalyzed by a macromolecular complex, the editosome. Editosomes bind pre-edited mRNA/gRNA pairs and the reaction can be recapitulated in vitro by using pre-mRNA- and gRNA-mimicking oligoribonucleotides together with enriched editosome preparations. Although the in vitro assay has been instrumental in unraveling the basic steps of the editing cycle it is performed at dilute solvent conditions. This ignores the fact that editing takes place inside the highly crowded mitochondria. Here we investigate the effects of molecular crowding on RNA editing. By using neutral, macromolecular cosolutes we generate defined dilute, semidilute and crowded solvent properties and we demonstrate different thermodynamic stabilities of the pre-mRNA/gRNA hybrid RNAs at these conditions. Crowded conditions stabilize the RNAs by -30 kJ/mol. Furthermore, we show that the rate constants for the association and dissociation (kass/kdiss) of substrate RNAs to editosomes decrease, ultimately inhibiting the in vitro reaction. The data demonstrate that the current RNA editing in vitro system is sensitive to molecular crowding, which suggests that the in vivo reaction cannot rely on a diffusion-controlled, collision-based mechanism. Possible non-diffusional reaction pathways are discussed.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0083796
PMCID: PMC3871654  PMID: 24376749
8.  Differentially Expressed Wound Healing-Related microRNAs in the Human Diabetic Cornea 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e84425.
MicroRNAs are powerful gene expression regulators, but their corneal repertoire and potential changes in corneal diseases remain unknown. Our purpose was to identify miRNAs altered in the human diabetic cornea by microarray analysis, and to examine their effects on wound healing in cultured telomerase-immortalized human corneal epithelial cells (HCEC) in vitro. Total RNA was extracted from age-matched human autopsy normal (n=6) and diabetic (n=6) central corneas, Flash Tag end-labeled, and hybridized to Affymetrix® GeneChip® miRNA Arrays. Select miRNAs associated with diabetic cornea were validated by quantitative RT-PCR (Q-PCR) and by in situ hybridization (ISH) in independent samples. HCEC were transfected with human pre-miRTMmiRNA precursors (h-miR) or their inhibitors (antagomirs) using Lipofectamine 2000. Confluent transfected cultures were scratch-wounded with P200 pipette tip. Wound closure was monitored by digital photography. Expression of signaling proteins was detected by immunostaining and Western blot. Using microarrays, 29 miRNAs were identified as differentially expressed in diabetic samples. Two miRNA candidates showing the highest fold increased in expression in the diabetic cornea were confirmed by Q-PCR and further characterized. HCEC transfection with h-miR-146a or h-miR-424 significantly retarded wound closure, but their respective antagomirs significantly enhanced wound healing vs. controls. Cells treated with h-miR-146a or h-miR-424 had decreased p-p38 and p-EGFR staining, but these increased over control levels close to the wound edge upon antagomir treatment. In conclusion, several miRNAs with increased expression in human diabetic central corneas were found. Two such miRNAs inhibited cultured corneal epithelial cell wound healing. Dysregulation of miRNA expression in human diabetic cornea may be an important mediator of abnormal wound healing.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0084425
PMCID: PMC3869828  PMID: 24376808
9.  Neonatal Hyperglycemia Inhibits Angiogenesis and Induces Inflammation and Neuronal Degeneration in the Retina 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79545.
Recent evidence suggests that transient hyperglycemia in extremely low birth weight infants is strongly associated with the occurrence of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). We propose a new model of Neonatal Hyperglycemia-induced Retinopathy (NHIR) that mimics many aspects of retinopathy of prematurity. Hyperglycemia was induced in newborn rat pups by injection of streptozocine (STZ) at post natal day one (P1). At various time points, animals were assessed for vascular abnormalities, neuronal cell death and accumulation and activation of microglial cells. We here report that streptozotocin induced a rapid and sustained increase of glycemia from P2/3 to P6 without affecting rat pups gain weight or necessitating insulin treatment. Retinal vascular area was significantly reduced in P6 hyperglycemic animals compared to control animals. Hyperglycemia was associated with (i) CCL2 chemokine induction at P6, (ii) a significant recruitment of inflammatory macrophages and an increase in total number of Iba+ macrophages/microglia cells in the inner nuclear layer (INL), and (iii) excessive apoptosis in the INL. NHIR thereby reproduces several aspects of ischemic retinopathies, including ROP and diabetic retinopathies, and might be a useful model to decipher hyperglycemia-induced cellular and molecular mechanisms in the small rodent.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0079545
PMCID: PMC3836846  PMID: 24278148
10.  Involvement of AP-1 and C/EBPβ in Upregulation of Endothelin B (ETB) Receptor Expression in a Rodent Model of Glaucoma 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79183.
Previous studies showed that the endothelin B receptor (ETB) expression was upregulated and played a key role in neurodegeneration in rodent models of glaucoma. However, the mechanisms underlying upregulation of ETB receptor expression remain largely unknown. Using promoter-reporter assays, the 1258 bp upstream the human ETB promoter region was found to be essential for constitutive expression of ETB receptor gene in human non-pigmented ciliary epithelial cells (HNPE). The −300 to −1 bp and −1258 to −600 bp upstream promoter regions of the ETB receptor appeared to be the key binding regions for transcription factors. In addition, the crucial AP-1 binding site located at −615 to −624 bp upstream promoter was confirmed by luciferase assays and CHIP assays which were performed following overexpression of c-Jun in HNPE cells. Overexpression of either c-Jun or C/EBPβ enhanced the ETB receptor promoter activity, which was reflected in increased mRNA and protein levels of ETB receptor. Furthermore, knock-down of either c-Jun or C/EBPβ in HNPE cells was significantly correlated to decreased mRNA levels of both ETB and ETA receptor. These observations suggest that c-Jun and C/EBPβ are important for regulated expression of the ETB receptor in HNPE cells. In separate experiments, intraocular pressure (IOP) was elevated in one eye of Brown Norway rats while the corresponding contralateral eye served as control. Two weeks of IOP elevation produced increased expression of c-Jun and C/EBPβ in the retinal ganglion cell (RGC) layer from IOP-elevated eyes. The mRNA levels of c-Jun, ETA and ETB receptor were upregulated by 2.2-, 3.1- and 4.4-fold in RGC layers obtained by laser capture microdissection from retinas of eyes with elevated IOP, compared to those from contralateral eyes. Taken together, these data suggest that transcription factor AP-1 plays a key role in elevation of ETB receptor in a rodent model of ocular hypertension.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0079183
PMCID: PMC3827153  PMID: 24265756
11.  Epigenetics and Cell Death: DNA Hypermethylation in Programmed Retinal Cell Death 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79140.
Background
Vertebrate genomes undergo epigenetic reprogramming during development and disease. Emerging evidence suggests that DNA methylation plays a key role in cell fate determination in the retina. Despite extensive studies of the programmed cell death that occurs during retinal development and degeneration, little is known about how DNA methylation might regulate neuronal cell death in the retina.
Methods
The developing chicken retina and the rd1 and rhodopsin-GFP mouse models of retinal degeneration were used to investigate programmed cell death during retinal development and degeneration. Changes in DNA methylation were determined by immunohistochemistry using antibodies against 5-methylcytosine (5mC) and 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC).
Results
Punctate patterns of hypermethylation paralleled patterns of caspase3-dependent apoptotic cell death previously reported to occur during development in the chicken retina. Degenerating rd1 mouse retinas, at time points corresponding to the peak of rod cell death, showed elevated signals for 5mC and 5hmC in photoreceptors throughout the retina, with the most intense staining observed in the peripheral retina. Hypermethylation of photoreceptors in rd1 mice was associated with TUNEL and PAR staining and appeared to be cCaspase3-independent. After peak rod degeneration, during the period of cone death, occasional hypermethylation was observed in the outer nuclear layer.
Conclusion
The finding that cell-specific increases of 5mC and 5hmC immunostaining are associated with the death of retinal neurons during both development and degeneration suggests that changes in DNA methylation may play a role in modulating gene expression during the process of retinal degeneration. During retinal development, hypermethylation of retinal neurons associates with classical caspase-dependent apoptosis as well as caspase-3 independent cell death, while hypermethylation in the rd1 mouse photoreceptors is primarily associated with caspase-3 independent programmed cell death. These findings suggest a previously unrecognized role for epigenetic mechanisms in the onset and/or progression of programed cell death in the retina.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0079140
PMCID: PMC3823652  PMID: 24244436
12.  Association of HDL-Related Loci with Age-Related Macular Degeneration and Plasma Lutein and Zeaxanthin: the Alienor Study 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79848.
Background
Several genes implicated in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) metabolism have been reported to be associated with age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Furthermore, HDL transport the two carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, which are highly suspected to play a key-role in the protection against AMD. The objective is to confirm the associations of HDL-related loci with AMD and to assess their associations with plasma lutein and zeaxanthin concentrations.
Methods
Alienor study is a prospective population-based study on nutrition and age-related eye diseases performed in 963 elderly residents of Bordeaux, France. AMD was graded according to the international classification, from non-mydriatic colour retinal photographs. Plasma lutein and zeaxanthin were determined by normal-phase high-performance liquid chromatography. The following polymorphisms were studied: rs493258 and rs10468017 (LIPC), rs3764261 (CETP), rs12678919 (LPL) and rs1883025 (ABCA1).
Results
After multivariate adjustment, the TT genotype of the LIPC rs493258 variant was significantly associated with a reduced risk for early and late AMD (OR=0.64, 95%CI: 0.41-0.99; p=0.049 and OR=0.26, 95%CI: 0.08-0.85; p=0.03, respectively), and with higher plasma zeaxanthin concentrations (p=0.03), while plasma lipids were not significantly different according to this SNP. Besides, the LPL variant was associated with early AMD (OR=0.67, 95%CI: 0.45-1.00; p=0.05) and both with plasma lipids and plasma lutein (p=0.047). Associations of LIPC rs10468017, CETP and ABCA1 polymorphisms with AMD did not reach statistical significance.
Conclusion
These findings suggest that LIPC and LPL genes could both modify the risk for AMD and the metabolism of lutein and zeaxanthin.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0079848
PMCID: PMC3819249  PMID: 24223199
13.  Genome-Wide microRNA Profiling of Rat Hippocampus after Status Epilepticus Induced by Amygdala Stimulation Identifies Modulators of Neuronal Apoptosis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e78375.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small and endogenously expressed non-coding RNAs that negatively regulate the expression of protein-coding genes at the translational level. Emerging evidence suggests that miRNAs play critical roles in central nervous system under physiological and pathological conditions. However, their expression and functions in status epilepticus (SE) have not been well characterized thus far. Here, by using high-throughput sequencing, we characterized miRNA expression profile in rat hippocampus at 24 hours following SE induced by amygdala stimulation. After confirmation by qRT-PCR, six miRNAs were found to be differentially expressed in brain after SE. Subsequent Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes pathway analysis indicated that most of the predicted target genes for these six miRNAs were related to neuronal apoptosis. We then investigated the dynamic changes of these six miRNAs at different time-point (4 hours, 24 hours, 1 week and 3 weeks) after SE. Meanwhile, neuronal survival and apoptosis in the hippocampus after SE were evaluated by Nissl staining and terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP end-labeling assay. We found that the expression of miR-874-3p, miR-20a-5p, miR-345-3p, miR-365-5p, and miR-764-3p were significantly increased from 24 hours to 1 week, whereas miR-99b-3p level was markedly decreased from 24 hours to 3 weeks after SE. Further analysis revealed that the levels of miR-365-5p and miR-99b-3p were significantly correlated with neuronal apoptosis after SE. Taken together, our data suggest that miRNAs are important modulators of SE-induced neuronal apoptosis. These findings also open new avenues for future studies aimed at developing strategies against neuronal apoptosis after SE.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0078375
PMCID: PMC3808371  PMID: 24205215
14.  Scleral Micro-RNA Signatures in Adult and Fetal Eyes 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e78984.
Introduction
In human eyes, ocular enlargement/growth reflects active extracellular matrix remodeling of the outer scleral shell. Micro-RNAs are small non-coding RNAs that regulate gene expression by base pairing with target sequences. They serve as nodes of signaling networks. We hypothesized that the sclera, like most tissues, expresses micro-RNAs, some of which modulate genes regulating ocular growth. In this study, the scleral micro-RNA expression profile of rapidly growing human fetal eyes was compared with that of stable adult donor eyes using high-throughput microarray and quantitative PCR analyses.
Methods
Scleral samples from normal human fetal (24 wk) and normal adult donor eyes were obtained (n=4 to 6, each group), and RNA extracted. Genome-wide micro-RNA profiling was performed using the Agilent micro-RNA microarray platform. Micro-RNA target predictions were obtained using Microcosm, TargetScan and PicTar algorithms. TaqMan® micro-RNA assays targeting micro-RNAs showing either highest significance, detection, or fold differences, and collagen specificity, were applied to scleral samples from posterior and peripheral ocular regions (n=7, each group). Microarray data were analyzed using R, and quantitative PCR data with 2^-deltaCt methods.
Results
Human sclera was found to express micro-RNAs, and comparison of microarray results for adult and fetal samples revealed many to be differentially expressed (p<0.01, min p= 6.5x1011). Specifically, fetal sclera showed increased expression of mir-214, let-7c, let-7e, mir-103, mir-107, and mir-98 (1.5 to 4 fold changes, p<0.01). However, no significant regionally specific differences .i.e., posterior vs. peripheral sclera, were observed for either adult or fetal samples.
Conclusion
For the first time, micro-RNA expression has been catalogued in human sclera. Some micro-RNAs show age-related differential regulation, higher in the sclera of rapidly growing fetal eyes, consistent with a role in ocular growth regulation. Thus micro-RNAs represent potential targets for ocular growth manipulation, related to myopia and/or other disorders such as scleral ectasia.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0078984
PMCID: PMC3804513  PMID: 24205357
15.  Altered Antioxidant-Oxidant Status in the Aqueous Humor and Peripheral Blood of Patients with Retinitis Pigmentosa 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e74223.
Retinitis Pigmentosa is a common form of hereditary retinal degeneration constituting the largest Mendelian genetic cause of blindness in the developed world. It has been widely suggested that oxidative stress possibly contributes to its pathogenesis. We measured the levels of total antioxidant capacity, free nitrotyrosine, thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) formation, extracellular superoxide dismutase (SOD3) activity, protein, metabolites of the nitric oxide/cyclic GMP pathway, heme oxygenase-I and inducible nitric oxide synthase expression in aqueous humor or/and peripheral blood from fifty-six patients with retinitis pigmentosa and sixty subjects without systemic or ocular oxidative stress-related disease. Multivariate analysis of covariance revealed that retinitis pigmentosa alters ocular antioxidant defence machinery and the redox status in blood. Patients with retinitis pigmentosa present low total antioxidant capacity including reduced SOD3 activity and protein concentration in aqueous humor. Patients also show reduced SOD3 activity, increased TBARS formation and upregulation of the nitric oxide/cyclic GMP pathway in peripheral blood. Together these findings confirmed the hypothesis that patients with retinitis pigmentosa present reduced ocular antioxidant status. Moreover, these patients show changes in some oxidative-nitrosative markers in the peripheral blood. Further studies are needed to clarify the relationship between these peripheral markers and retinitis pigmentosa.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0074223
PMCID: PMC3772065  PMID: 24069283
16.  Protective Effects of Resveratrol in Experimental Retinal Detachment 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e75735.
Background
Oxidative stress is one of the major factors that trigger photoreceptor apoptosis. To investigate whether resveratrol, a potent antioxidant and small molecule activator of the FoxO pathway, would be neuroprotective against photoreceptor cell death in a rodent model of retinal detachment.
Methods
Retinal detachment was created in adult Brown Norway rats by subretinal injection of sodium hyaluronate. The animals were treated daily with vehicle or resveratrol (20mg/kg) intraperitoneal injection. Photoreceptor death was assessed by counting the number of apoptotic cells with TdT-dUTP terminal nick-end labeling (TUNEL) and measurement of the outer nuclear layer (ONL) thickness 3 days after RD. Changes in expression of FoxO1a, FoxO3a, and FoxO4 were analyzed by western blot. The activity of caspase 3, caspase 8, caspase 9, spectrin and their cleavage forms were studied.
Results
Three days after retinal detachment, caspase 3, caspase 8 and caspase 9 were significantly activated in the detached retina. Spectrin cleavage products at 120 and 145 kDa were also detected. Both caspase and calpain activation are involved in apoptotic photoreceptor cell death in detached retinas. Treatment with resveratrol increases FoxO1a, FoxO3a, and FoxO4 protein expression in detached retinas only. Resveratrol treatment decreases activation of intrinsic and extrinsic caspase apoptotic pathways triggered by RD. The number of TUNEL-positive cells decreases from 1301±51 cells/mm2 in control groups to 430±35 cells/mm2 in treatment groups (p<0.05). Resveratrol treatment also demonstrates 59% less ONL thickness loss compared to controls.
Conclusions
Resveratrol treatment up-regulates the FoxO family and blocks Caspase3, 8, and 9 activation. Resveratrol has the potential to be used as a novel therapeutic agent for preventing vision loss in diseases characterized by photoreceptor detachment.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0075735
PMCID: PMC3770540  PMID: 24040416
17.  Delivery of Antioxidant Enzyme Genes to Protect against Ischemia/Reperfusion-Induced Injury to Retinal Microvasculature 
Purpose
Retinal ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) injury results in the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). The aim of this study was to investigate whether delivery of the manganese superoxide dismutase gene (SOD2) or the catalase gene (CAT) could rescue the retinal vascular damage induced by I/R in mice.
Methods
I/R injury to the retina was induced in mice by elevating intraocular pressure for 2 hours, and reperfusion was established immediately afterward. One eye of each mouse was pretreated with plasmids encoding manganese superoxide dismutase or catalase complexed with cationic liposomes and delivered by intravitreous injection 48 hours before initiation of the procedure. Superoxide ion, hydrogen peroxide, and 4-hydroxynonenal (4-HNE) protein modifications were measured by fluorescence staining, immunohistochemistry, and Western blot analysis 1 day after the I/R injury. At 7 days after injury, retinal vascular cell apoptosis and acellular capillaries were quantitated.
Results
Superoxide ion, hydrogen peroxide, and 4-HNE protein modifications increased at 24 hours after I/R injury. Administration of plasmids encoding SOD2 or CAT significantly reduced levels of superoxide ion, hydrogen peroxide, and 4-HNE. Retinal vascular cell apoptosis and acellular capillary numbers increased greatly by 7 days after the injury. Delivery of SOD2 or CAT inhibited the I/R-induced apoptosis of retinal vascular cell and retinal capillary degeneration.
Conclusions
Delivery of antioxidant genes inhibited I/R-induced retinal capillary degeneration, apoptosis of vascular cells, and ROS production, suggesting that antioxidant gene therapy might be a treatment for I/R-related disease.
doi:10.1167/iovs.09-3633
PMCID: PMC3756491  PMID: 19628743
18.  Phototoxic Action Spectrum on a Retinal Pigment Epithelium Model of Age-Related Macular Degeneration Exposed to Sunlight Normalized Conditions 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e71398.
Among the identified risk factors of age-related macular degeneration, sunlight is known to induce cumulative damage to the retina. A photosensitive derivative of the visual pigment, N-retinylidene-N-retinylethanolamine (A2E), may be involved in this phototoxicity. The high energy visible light between 380 nm and 500 nm (blue light) is incriminated. Our aim was to define the most toxic wavelengths in the blue-green range on an in vitro model of the disease. Primary cultures of porcine retinal pigment epithelium cells were incubated for 6 hours with different A2E concentrations and exposed for 18 hours to 10 nm illumination bands centered from 380 to 520 nm in 10 nm increments. Light irradiances were normalized with respect to the natural sunlight reaching the retina. Six hours after light exposure, cell viability, necrosis and apoptosis were assessed using the Apotox-Glo Triplex™ assay. Retinal pigment epithelium cells incubated with A2E displayed fluorescent bodies within the cytoplasm. Their absorption and emission spectra were similar to those of A2E. Exposure to 10 nm illumination bands induced a loss in cell viability with a dose dependence upon A2E concentrations. Irrespective of A2E concentration, the loss of cell viability was maximal for wavelengths from 415 to 455 nm. Cell viability decrease was correlated to an increase in cell apoptosis indicated by caspase-3/7 activities in the same spectral range. No light-elicited necrosis was measured as compared to control cells maintained in darkness. Our results defined the precise spectrum of light retinal toxicity in physiological irradiance conditions on an in vitro model of age-related macular degeneration. Surprisingly, a narrow bandwidth in blue light generated the greatest phototoxic risk to retinal pigment epithelium cells. This phototoxic spectrum may be advantageously valued in designing selective photoprotection ophthalmic filters, without disrupting essential visual and non-visual functions of the eye.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0071398
PMCID: PMC3751948  PMID: 24058402
19.  Mutations in LMNA Modulate the Lamin A - Nesprin-2 Interaction and Cause LINC Complex Alterations 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e71850.
Background
In eukaryotes the genetic material is enclosed by a continuous membrane system, the nuclear envelope (NE). Along the NE specific proteins assemble to form meshworks and mutations in these proteins have been described in a group of human diseases called laminopathies. Laminopathies include lipodystrophies, muscle and cardiac diseases as well as metabolic or progeroid syndromes. Most laminopathies are caused by mutations in the LMNAgene encoding lamins A/C. Together with Nesprins (Nuclear Envelope Spectrin Repeat Proteins) they are core components of the LINC complex (Linker of Nucleoskeleton and Cytoskeleton). The LINC complex connects the nucleoskeleton and the cytoskeleton and plays a role in the transfer of mechanically induced signals along the NE into the nucleus, and its components have been attributed functions in maintaining nuclear and cellular organization as well as signal transduction.
Results
Here we narrowed down the interaction sites between lamin A and Nesprin-2 to aa 403–425 in lamin A and aa 6146–6347 in Nesprin-2. Laminopathic mutations in and around the involved region of lamin A (R401C, G411D, G413C, V415I, R419C, L421P, R427G, Q432X) modulate the interaction with Nesprin-2 and this may contribute to the disease phenotype. The most notable mutation is the lamin A mutation Q432X that alters LINC complex protein assemblies and causes chromosomal and transcription factor rearrangements.
Conclusion
Mutations in Nesprin-2 and lamin A are characterised by complex genotype phenotype relations. Our data show that each mutation in LMNAanalysed here has a distinct impact on the interaction among both proteins that substantially explains how distinct mutations in widely expressed genes lead to the formation of phenotypically different diseases.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0071850
PMCID: PMC3748058  PMID: 23977161
20.  Bilateral Nerve Alterations in a Unilateral Experimental Neurotrophic Keratopathy Model: A Lateral Conjunctival Approach for Trigeminal Axotomy 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e70908.
To study bilateral nerve changes in a newly developed novel mouse model for neurotrophic keratopathy by approaching the trigeminal nerve from the lateral fornix. Surgical axotomy of the ciliary nerve of the trigeminal nerve was performed in adult BALB/c mice at the posterior sclera. Axotomized, contralateral, and sham-treated corneas were excised on post-operative days 1, 3, 5, 7 and 14 and immunofluorescence histochemistry was performed with anti-β-tubulin antibody to evaluate corneal nerve density. Blink reflex was evaluated using a nylon thread. The survival rate was 100% with minimal bleeding during axotomy and a surgical time of 8±0.5 minutes. The blink reflex was diminished at day 1 after axotomy, but remained intact in the contralateral eyes in all mice. The central and peripheral subbasal nerves were not detectable in the axotomized cornea at day 1 (p<0.001), compared to normal eyes (101.3±14.8 and 69.7±12.0 mm/mm2 centrally and peripherally). Interestingly, the subbasal nerve density in the contralateral non-surgical eyes also decreased significantly to 62.4±2.8 mm/mm2 in the center from day 1 (p<0.001), but did not change in the periphery (77.3±11.7 mm/mm2, P = 0.819). Our novel trigeminal axotomy mouse model is highly effective, less invasive, rapid, and has a high survival rate, demonstrating immediate loss of subbasal nerves in axotomized eyes and decreased subbasal nerves in contralateral eyes after unilateral axotomy. This model will allow investigating the effects of corneal nerve damage and serves as a new model for neurotrophic keratopathy.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0070908
PMCID: PMC3743879  PMID: 23967133
21.  Pathological Consequences of Long-Term Mitochondrial Oxidative Stress in the Mouse Retinal Pigment Epithelium 
Experimental eye research  2012;101:60-71.
Oxidative stress in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) is hypothesized to be a major contributor to the development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Mitochondrial manganese superoxide dismutase (MnSOD) is a critical antioxidant protein that scavenges the highly reactive superoxide radical. We speculated that specific reduction of MnSOD in the RPE will increase the level of reactive oxygen species in the retina/RPE/choroid complex leading to pathogenesis similar to geographic atrophy. To test this hypothesis, an Sod2-specific hammerhead ribozyme (Rz), delivered by AAV2/1 and driven by the human VMD2 promoter was injected subretinally into C57BL/6J mice. Dark-adapted full field electroretinogram (ERG) detected a decrease in the response to light. We investigated the age-dependent phenotypic and morphological changes of the outer retina digital fundus imaging and SD-OCT measurement of ONL thickness. Fundus microscopy revealed pigmentary abnormalities in the retina and these corresponded to sub-retinal and sub-RPE deposits seen in SD-OCT B-scans. Light and electron microscopy documented the localization of apical deposits and thickening of the RPE. In RPE flat-mounts we observed abnormally displaced nuclei and regions of apparent fibrosis in the central retina of the oldest mice. This region was surrounded by enlarged and irregular RPE cells that have been observed in eyes donated by AMD patients and in other mouse models of AMD.
doi:10.1016/j.exer.2012.05.013
PMCID: PMC3419481  PMID: 22687918
retinal pigment epithelium; oxidative stress; superoxide dismutase; mitochondria; mouse model; age related macular degeneration
22.  Multiple Group I Introns in the Small-Subunit rDNA of Botryosphaeria dothidea: Implication for Intraspecific Genetic Diversity 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e67808.
Botryosphaeria dothidea is a widespread and economically important pathogen on various fruit trees, and it often causes die-back and canker on limbs and fruit rot. In characterizing intraspecies genetic variation within this fungus, group I introns, rich in rDNA of fungi, may provide a productive region for exploration. In this research, we analysed complete small subunit (SSU) ribosomal DNA (rDNA) sequences of 37 B. dothidea strains, and found four insertions, designated Bdo.S943, Bdo.S1199-A, Bdo.S1199-B and Bdo.S1506, at three positions. Sequence analysis and structure prediction revealed that both Bdo.S943 and Bdo.S1506 belonged to subgroup IC1 of group I introns, whereas Bdo.S1199-A and Bdo.S1199-B corresponded to group IE introns. Moreover, Bdo.S1199-A was found to host an open reading frame (ORF) for encoding the homing endonuclease (HE), whereas Bdo.S1199-B, an evolutionary descendant of Bdo.S1199-A, included a degenerate HE. The above four introns were novel, and were the first group I introns observed and characterized in this species. Differential distribution of these introns revealed that all strains could be separated into four genotypes. Genotype III (no intron) and genotype IV (Bdo.S1199-B) were each found in only one strain, whereas genotype I (Bdo.S1199-A) and genotype II (Bdo.S943 and Bdo.S1506) occurred in 95% of the strains. There is a correlation between B. dothidea genotypes and hosts or geographic locations. Thus, these newly discovered group I introns can help to advance understanding of genetic differentiation within B. dothidea.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0067808
PMCID: PMC3699495  PMID: 23844098
23.  Retinal Ganglion Cells are Resistant to Photoreceptor Loss in Retinal Degeneration 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e68084.
The rapid and massive degeneration of photoreceptors in retinal degeneration might have a dramatic negative effect on retinal circuits downstream of photoreceptors. However, the impact of photoreceptor loss on the morphology and function of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) is not fully understood, precluding the rational design of therapeutic interventions that can reverse the progressive loss of retinal function. The present study investigated the morphological changes in several identified RGCs in the retinal degeneration rd1 mouse model of retinitis pigmentosa (RP), using a combination of viral transfection, microinjection of neurobiotin and confocal microscopy. Individual RGCs were visualized with a high degree of detail using an adeno-associated virus (AAV) vector carrying the gene for enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP), allowed for large-scale surveys of the morphology of RGCs over a wide age range. Interestingly, we found that the RGCs of nine different types we encountered were especially resistant to photoreceptor degeneration, and retained their fine dendritic geometry well beyond the complete death of photoreceptors. In addition, the RGC-specific markers revealed a remarkable degree of stability in both morphology and numbers of two identified types of RGCs for up to 18 months of age. Collectively, our data suggest that ganglion cells, the only output cells of the retina, are well preserved morphologically, indicating the ganglion cell population might be an attractive target for treating vision loss.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0068084
PMCID: PMC3695938  PMID: 23840814
24.  Surfactant Protein D Contributes to Ocular Defense against Pseudomonas aeruginosa in a Murine Model of Dry Eye Disease 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e65797.
Dry eye disease can cause ocular surface inflammation that disrupts the corneal epithelial barrier. While dry eye patients are known to have an increased risk of corneal infection, it is not known whether there is a direct causal relationship between these two conditions. Here, we tested the hypothesis that experimentally-induced dry eye (EDE) increases susceptibility to corneal infection using a mouse model. In doing so, we also examined the role of surfactant protein D (SP-D), which we have previously shown is involved in corneal defense against infection. Scopolamine injections and fan-driven air were used to cause EDE in C57BL/6 or Black Swiss mice (wild-type and SP-D gene-knockout). Controls received PBS injections and were housed normally. After 5 or 10 days, otherwise uninjured corneas were inoculated with 109 cfu of Pseudomonas aeruginosa strain PAO1. Anesthesia was maintained for 3 h post-inoculation. Viable bacteria were quantified in ocular surface washes and corneal homogenates 6 h post-inoculation. SP-D was measured by Western immunoblot, and corneal pathology assessed from 6 h to 4 days. EDE mice showed reduced tear volumes after 5 and 10 days (each by ∼75%, p<0.001) and showed fluorescein staining (i.e. epithelial disruption). Surprisingly, there was no significant difference in corneal pathology between EDE mice and controls (∼10–14% incidence). Before bacterial inoculation, EDE mice showed elevated SP-D in ocular washes. After inoculation, fewer bacteria were recovered from ocular washes of EDE mice (<2% of controls, p = 0.0004). Furthermore, SP-D knockout mice showed a significant increase in P. aeruginosa corneal colonization under EDE conditions. Taken together, these data suggest that SP-D contributes to corneal defense against P. aeruginosa colonization and infection in EDE despite the loss of barrier function to fluorescein.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0065797
PMCID: PMC3675081  PMID: 23762428
25.  Proteolytic Processing of Connective Tissue Growth Factor in Normal Ocular Tissues and during Corneal Wound Healing 
Purpose.
Connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) is a fibrogenic cytokine that is up-regulated by TGF-β and mediates most key fibrotic actions of TGF-β, including stimulation of synthesis of extracellular matrix and differentiation of fibroblasts into myofibroblasts. This study addresses the role of proteolytic processing of CTGF in human corneal fibroblasts (HCF) stimulated with TGF-β, normal ocular tissues and wounded corneas.
Methods.
Proteolytic processing of CTGF in HCF cultures, normal animal eyes, and excimer laser wounded rat corneas were examined by Western blot. The identity of a 21-kDa band was determined by tandem mass spectrometry, and possible alternative splice variants of CTGF were assessed by 5′ Rapid Amplification of cDNA Ends (RACE).
Results.
HCF stimulated by TGF-β contained full length 38-kDa CTGF and fragments of 25, 21, 18, and 13 kDa, while conditioned medium contained full length 38- and a 21-kDa fragment of CTGF that contained the middle “hinge” region of CTGF. Fragmentation of recombinant CTGF incubated in HCF extracts was blocked by the aspartate protease inhibitor, pepstatin. Normal mouse, rat, and rabbit whole eyes and rabbit ocular tissues contained abundant amounts of C-terminal 25- and 21-kDa fragments and trace amounts of 38-kDa CTGF, although no alternative transcripts were detected. All forms of CTGF (38, 25, and 21 kDa) were detected during healing of excimer ablated rat corneas, peaking on day 11.
Conclusions.
Proteolytic processing of 38-kDa CTGF occurs during corneal wound healing, which may have important implications in regulation of corneal scar formation.
Proteolytic processing of connective tissue growth factor (CTGF, 38 kDa) alters its biological effects. C-terminal fragments of CTGF (21 kDa and 25 kDa) are abundant in normal ocular tissues, and peak 11 days after excimer laser ablation in rat corneas. Processing of CTGF during corneal wound healing may impact scar formation.
doi:10.1167/iovs.12-10419
PMCID: PMC3522436  PMID: 23139278

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