Adeno-associated virus (AAV) is a small, non-pathogenic dependovirus that has shown great potential for safe and long-term expression of a genetic pay-load in the retina. AAV has been used to treat a growing number of animal models of inherited retinal degeneration, though drawbacks—including a limited carrying capacity, slow onset of expression, and a limited ability to transduce some retinal cell types from the vitreous—restrict the utility of AAV for treating some forms of inherited eye disease. Next generation AAV vectors are being created to address these needs, through rational design efforts such as the creation of self-complementary AAV vectors for faster onset of expression and specific mutations of surface-exposed residues to increase transduction of viral particles. Furthermore, directed evolution has been used to create, through an iterative process of selection, novel variants of AAV with newly acquired, advantageous characteristics. These novel AAV variants have been shown to improve the therapeutic potential of AAV vectors, and further improvements may be achieved through rational design, directed evolution, or a combination of these approaches, leading to broader applicability of AAV and improved treatments for inherited retinal degeneration.
Adeno-associated virus; Gene therapy; Mutagenesis; Directed evolution; Retinal degeneration
X-linked retinoschisis, a disease characterized by splitting of the retina, is caused by mutations in the retinoschisin gene, which encodes a secreted cell adhesion protein. Currently, there is no effective treatment for retinoschisis, though viral vector-mediated gene replacement therapies offer promise. We used intravitreal delivery of three different AAV vectors to target delivery of the RS1 gene to Müller glia, photoreceptors, or multiple cell types throughout the retina. Müller glia radially span the entire retina, are accessible from the vitreous, and remain intact throughout progression of the disease. However, photoreceptors, not glia, normally secrete retinoschisin. We compared the efficacy of rescue mediated by retinoschisin secretion from these specific subtypes of retinal cells in the Rs1h−/− mouse model of retinoschisis. Our results indicate that all three vectors deliver the RS1 gene, and that several cell types can secrete retinoschisin, leading to transport of the protein across the retina. The greatest long-term rescue was observed when photoreceptors produce retinoschisin. Similar rescue was observed with photoreceptor-specific or generalized expression, though photoreceptor secretion may contribute to rescue in the latter case. These results collectively point to the importance of cell targeting and appropriate vector choice in the success of retinal gene therapies.
Gene therapy; X-linked retinoschisis; AAV vectors; photoreceptors; Müller glia; cell targeting
The fovea dominates primate vision, and its anatomy and perceptual abilities are well studied, but its physiology has been little explored because of limitations of current physiological methods. In this study, we adapted a novel in vivo imaging method, originally developed in mouse retina, to explore foveal physiology in the macaque, which permits the repeated imaging of the functional response of many retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) simultaneously. A genetically encoded calcium indicator, G-CaMP5, was inserted into foveal RGCs, followed by calcium imaging of the displacement of foveal RGCs from their receptive fields, and their intensity-response functions. The spatial offset of foveal RGCs from their cone inputs makes this method especially appropriate for fovea by permitting imaging of RGC responses without excessive light adaptation of cones. This new method will permit the tracking of visual development, progression of retinal disease, or therapeutic interventions, such as insertion of visual prostheses.
calcium imaging; in vivo adaptive optics imaging; intrinsic signal imaging; primate fovea; retinal ganglion cells
To determine whether knockdown of Müller cell–derived VEGFA-splice variant, VEGF164, which is upregulated in the rat retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) model, safely inhibits intravitreal neovascularization (IVNV).
Short hairpin RNAs for VEGF164 (VEGF164.shRNAs) or luciferase.shRNA control were cloned into lentivectors with CD44 promoters that specifically target Müller cells. Knockdown efficiency, off-target effects, and specificity were tested in HEK reporter cell lines that expressed green fluorescent protein (GFP)-tagged VEGF164 or VEGF120 with flow cytometry or in rat Müller cells (rMC-1) by real-time PCR. In the rat oxygen-induced retinopathy (OIR) ROP model, pups received 1 μL subretinal lentivector-driven luciferase.shRNA, VEGFA.shRNA, or VEGF164.shRNA at postnatal day 8 (P8). Analyses at P18 and P25 included: IVNV and avascular retina (AVA); retinal and serum VEGF (ELISA); density of phosphorylated VEGFR2 (p-VEGFR2) in lectin-labeled retinal endothelial cells (ECs; immunohistochemistry); TUNEL staining and thickness of inner nuclear (INL) and outer nuclear layers (ONL) in retinal cryosections; and pup weight gain.
In HEK reporter and in rMC-1 cells and in comparison to lucifferase.shRNA, VEGFA.shRNA reduced both VEGF120 and VEGF164, but VEGF164.shRNA only reduced VEGF164 and not VEGF120. Compared with luciferase.shRNA, VEGFA.shRNA and VEGF164.shRNA reduced retinal VEGF and IVNV without affecting AVA at P18 and P25. At P25, VEGF164.shRNA more effectively maintained IVNV inhibition than VEGFA.shRNA. VEGFA.shRNA and VEGF164.shRNA reduced pVEGFR2 in retinal ECs at P18, but VEGFA.shRNA increased it at P25. VEGFA.shRNA increased TUNEL+ cells at P18 and decreased ONL thickness at P18 and P25. VEGFA.shRNA and VEGF164.shRNA did not affect pup weight gain and serum VEGF.
Short hairpin RNA to Müller cell VEGF164 maintained long-term inhibition of IVNV and limited cell death compared with shRNA to VEGFA.
Using a relevant model of current ROP, the rat 50/10 oxygen-induced retinopathy model, we determined that targeting Müller cell VEGF164 by lentivector-delivered shRNA achieved better inhibition of intravitreal neovascularization without causing retinal cell death compared to shRNA to VEGFA.
vascular endothelial growth factor; lentivector; short hairpin RNA; intravitreal neovascularization; Müller cells
Targeted inhibition of Müller cell (MC)–produced VEGF or broad inhibition of VEGF with an intravitreal anti-VEGF antibody reduces intravitreal neovascularization in a rat model of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). In this study, we compared the effects of these two approaches on retinal vascular development and capillary density in the inner and deep plexi in the rat ROP model.
In the rat model of ROP, pups received 1 μL of (1) subretinal lentivector-driven short hairpin RNA (shRNA) to knockdown MC-VEGFA (VEGFA.shRNA) or control luciferase shRNA, or (2) intravitreal anti-VEGF antibody (anti-VEGF) or control isotype goat immunoglobulin G (IgG). Analyses of lectin-stained flat mounts at postnatal day 18 (p18) included: vascular/total retinal areas (retinal vascular coverage) and pixels of fluorescence/total retinal area (capillary density) of the inner and deep plexi determined with the Syncroscan microscope, and angles between cleavage planes of mitotic vascular figures labeled with anti-phosphohistone H3 and vessel length.
Retinal vascular coverage and density increased in both plexi between p8 and p18 in room air (RA) pups. Compared with RA, p18 ROP pups had reduced vascular coverage and density of both plexi. Compared with respective controls, VEGFA.shRNA treatment significantly increased vascular density in the deep plexus, whereas anti-VEGF reduced vascular density in the inner and deep plexi. Vascular endothelial growth factor-A.shRNA caused more cleavage angles predicting vessel elongation and fewer mitotic figures, whereas anti-VEGF treatment led to patterns of pathologic angiogenesis.
Targeted treatment with lentivector-driven VEGFA.shRNA permitted physiologic vascularization of the vascular plexi and restored normal orientation of dividing vascular cells, suggesting that regulation of VEGF signaling by targeted treatment may be beneficial.
Targeted inhibition of Müller cell (MC)-produced VEGF or broad inhibition of VEGF with anti-VEGF antibody reduces intravitreal neovascularization (IVNV) in the rat retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) model. We compared the effects of these two approaches on retinal vascular area and capillary density of the inner and deep plexi.
VEGF; vascular extent; vascular density; intrvitreal neovscularization; rat model of retinopathy of prematurity
The purpose of this study was to evaluate outcomes for older persons post-hip fracture repair, including those with cognitive impairment (CI), following implementation of a novel model of care – the Patient-Centered Rehabilitation Model including persons with CI (PCRM-CI). The PCRM-CI is an interdisciplinary rehabilitation program that incorporates education for healthcare professionals (HCPs), including nurses, which is focused on geriatric care including management of dementia and delirium, support for HCPs from an Advanced Practice Nurse, and family support and education. Primary outcome measures were mobility gain from admission to discharge and whether or not patients returned home post-discharge.
The PCRM-CI intervention was evaluated using a quasi-experimental design, following implementation in two community hospital inpatient rehabilitation units. One hundred forty-nine patients aged 65 and older participated as patients in the usual care (76) or PCRM-CI intervention (73) groups. Patient mobility was assessed at admission and discharge by the Functional Independence Measure Motor Subscale (FIMM); the difference in mobility scores was defined as mobility gain. Patient discharge location was also captured to determine whether or not patients returned home from inpatient rehabilitation.
No difference in mobility gain was found between the usual care and PCRM-CI groups as measured by the FIMM. Patients in the intervention group were more likely to return home post-discharge than those in the usual care group (p = 0.02).
Results of the PCRM-CI evaluation suggest that older adults with CI can successfully be rehabilitated post-hip fracture repair using this novel, interdisciplinary rehabilitation program.
This trial has been registered with the US National Institutes of Health (ID: NCT01566136)
Person-centered care; Cognitive impairment; Rehabilitation; Healthcare restructuring; Hip fracture
We determined norovirus (NoV) concentrations in effluent from a wastewater treatment plant and in oysters during the peak period of laboratory-confirmed cases of NoV infection in Ireland in 2010 (January to March). Weekly samples of influent, secondary treated effluent, and oysters were analyzed using real-time quantitative reverse transcription-PCR for NoV genogroup I (GI) and genogroup II (GII). The mean concentration of NoV GII (5.87 × 104 genome copies 100 ml−1) in influent wastewater was significantly higher than the mean concentration of NoV GI (1.40 × 104 genome copies 100 ml−1). The highest concentration of NoV GII (2.20 × 105 genome copies 100 ml−1) was detected in influent wastewater during week 6. Over the study period, a total of 931 laboratory-confirmed cases of NoV GII infection were recorded, with the peak (n = 171) occurring in week 7. In comparison, 16 cases of NoV GI-associated illness were reported during the study period. In addition, the NoV capsid N/S domain was molecularly characterized for selected samples. Multiple genotypes of NoV GI (GI.1, GI.4, GI.5, GI.6, and GI.7) and GII (GII.3, GII.4, GII.6, GII.7, GII.12, GII.13, and GII.17), as well as 4 putative recombinant strains, were detected in the environmental samples. The NoV GII.4 variant 2010 was detected in wastewater and oyster samples and was the dominant strain detected in NoV outbreaks at that time. This study demonstrates the diversity of NoV genotypes present in wastewater during a period of high rates of NoV infection in the community and highlights the potential for the environmental spread of multiple NoV genotypes.
Müller glia, the primary glial cell in the retina, provide structural and metabolic support for neurons and are essential for retinal integrity. Müller cells are closely involved in many retinal degenerative diseases, including macular telangiectasia type 2, in which impairment of central vision may be linked to a primary defect in Müller glia. Here, we used an engineered, Müller-specific variant of AAV, called ShH10, to deliver a photo-inducibly toxic protein, KillerRed, to Müller cells in the mouse retina. We characterized the results of specific ablation of these cells on visual function and retinal structure. ShH10-KillerRed expression was obtained following intravitreal injection and eyes were then irradiated with green light to induce toxicity. Induction of KillerRed led to loss of Müller cells and a concomitant decrease of Müller cell markers glutamine synthetase and cellular retinaldehyde-binding protein, reduction of rhodopsin and cone opsin, and upregulation of glial fibrillary acidic protein. Loss of Müller cells also resulted in retinal disorganization, including thinning of the outer nuclear layer and the photoreceptor inner and outer segments. High resolution imaging of thin sections revealed displacement of photoreceptors from the ONL, formation of rosette-like structures and the presence of phagocytic cells. Furthermore, Müller cell ablation resulted in increased area and volume of retinal blood vessels, as well as the formation of tortuous blood vessels and vascular leakage. Electrophysiologic measures demonstrated reduced retinal function, evident in decreased photopic and scotopic electroretinogram amplitudes. These results show that loss of Müller cells can cause progressive retinal degenerative disease, and suggest that AAV delivery of an inducibly toxic protein in Müller cells may be useful to create large animal models of retinal dystrophies.
Inhibitory interneurons are essential components of the neural circuits underlying various brain functions. In the neocortex, a large diversity of GABAergic interneurons have been identified based on their morphology, molecular markers, biophysical properties, and innervation pattern1,2,3. However, how the activity of each subtype of interneurons contributes to sensory processing remains unclear. Here we show that optogenetic activation of parvalbumin-positive (PV+) interneurons in mouse V1 sharpens neuronal feature selectivity and improves perceptual discrimination. Using multichannel recording with silicon probes4,5 and channelrhodopsin 2 (ChR2)-mediated optical activation6, we found that elevated spiking of PV+ interneurons markedly sharpened orientation tuning and enhanced direction selectivity of nearby neurons. These effects were caused by the activation of inhibitory neurons rather than decreased spiking of excitatory neurons, since archaerhodopsin-3 (Arch)-mediated optical silencing7 of calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase IIα-positive (CaMKIIα+) excitatory neurons caused no significant change in V1 stimulus selectivity. Moreover, the improved selectivity specifically required PV+ neuron activation, since activating somatostatin (SOM+) or vasointestinal peptide (VIP+) interneurons had no significant effect. Notably, PV+ neuron activation in awake mice caused a significant improvement in their orientation discrimination, mirroring the sharpened V1 orientation tuning. Together, these results provide the first demonstration that visual coding and perception can be improved by elevated spiking of a specific subtype of cortical inhibitory interneurons.
The concentrations of Escherichia coli, F-specific RNA bacteriophage (FRNA bacteriophage), and norovirus genogroup I (NoV GI) and norovirus genogroup II (NoV GII) in wastewater were monitored weekly over a 1-year period at a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) providing secondary wastewater treatment. A total of 49 samples of influent wastewater and wastewater that had been treated by primary and secondary wastewater treatment processes (primary and secondary treated wastewater) were analyzed. Using a real-time reverse transcription-quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR), the mean NoV GI and NoV GII concentrations detected in effluent wastewater were 2.53 and 2.63 log10 virus genome copies 100 ml−1, respectively. The mean NoV concentrations in wastewater during the winter period (January to March) (n = 12) were 0.82 (NoV GI) and 1.41 (NoV GII) log units greater than the mean concentrations for the rest of the year (n = 37). The mean reductions of NoV GI and GII during treatment were 0.80 and 0.92 log units, respectively, with no significant difference detected in the extent of NoV reductions due to season. No seasonal trend was detected in the concentrations of E. coli or FRNA bacteriophage in wastewater influent and showed mean reductions of 1.49 and 2.13 log units, respectively. Mean concentrations of 3.56 and 3.72 log10 virus genome copies 100 ml−1 for NoV GI and GII, respectively, were detected in oysters sampled adjacent to the WWTP discharge. A strong seasonal trend was observed, and the concentrations of NoV GI and GII detected in oysters were correlated with concentrations detected in the wastewater effluent. No seasonal difference was detected in concentrations of E. coli or FRNA bacteriophage detected in oysters.
The course and outcomes of hip fracture patients are often complicated by the presence of dementia and delirium, referred to as cognitive impairment (CI), which limits access to in-patient rehabilitation. In response to this concern, members of our team developed and piloted an in-patient rehabilitation model of care (Patient-Centred Rehabilitation Model; PCRM) targeting patients with hip fracture and CI (PCRM-CI). We are now conducting a 3-year study comparing an inpatient rehabilitation model of care for community dwelling individuals with hip fracture and CI (PCRM-CI) to usual care to determine whether it results in improved mobility at the time of discharge from inpatient rehabilitation.
A non-equivalent pre-post design is being used to evaluate the PCRM-CI compared to usual care. All community dwelling (private home or retirement home) patients following a hip fracture are eligible to participate. Recruitment of both cohorts is taking place at two facilities. Target accrual is 70 hip fracture patients in the PCRM-CI cohort and 70 patients in the usual care cohort. We are also recruiting 70 health care providers (HCPs), who are being trained to implement the PCRM-CI, and their unit managers. Patient data are collected at baseline, discharge, and 6 months post-discharge from an inpatient rehabilitation program. Evaluations include mobility, physical function, and living arrangement. Additional outcome variables are being collected from medical records and from the patients via their proxies. Data on the prevalence and severity of dementia and delirium are being collected. Staff data are collected at baseline and one year after implementation of the model to determine change in staff knowledge and attitudes toward patients with hip fracture and CI. Bi-monthly semi-structured interviews with unit managers have been conducted to examine factors and barriers influencing the model implementation. Data collection began in 2009 and is expected to be completed in 2012. The control cohort of 70 patients has been recruited, and 45 patients have been accrued to the intervention group to date.
Evaluation of this model of care is timely given the increasing proportion of persons with cognitive impairment and hip fractures.
The study is registered at http://clinicaltrials.gov, Identifier NCT01566136.
Hip fractures; Dementia; Delirium; Cognitive impairment; Rehabilitation; Models of care; Mobility outcomes; Evaluation; Controlled investigation
The molecular mechanisms underlying hair cell synaptic maturation are not well understood. Cadherin-23 (CDH23), protocadherin-15 (PCDH15) and the very large G-protein coupled receptor 1 (VLGR1) have been implicated in the development of cochlear hair cell stereocilia, while clarin-1 has been suggested to also play a role in synaptogenesis. Mutations in CDH23, PCDH15, VLGR1 and clarin-1 cause Usher syndrome, characterized by congenital deafness, vestibular dysfunction and retinitis pigmentosa. Here we show developmental expression of these Usher proteins in afferent spiral ganglion neurons and hair cell synapses. We identify a novel synaptic Usher complex comprised of clarin-1 and specific isoforms of CDH23, PCDH15 and VLGR1. To establish the in vivo relevance of this complex, we performed morphological and quantitative analysis of the neuronal fibers and their synapses in the Clrn1−/− mouse, which was generated by incomplete deletion of the gene. These mice showed a delay in neuronal/synaptic maturation by both immunostaining and electron microscopy. Analysis of the ribbon synapses in Ames waltzerav3J mice also suggests a delay in hair cell synaptogenesis. Collectively, these results show that, in addition to the well documented role for Usher proteins in stereocilia development, Usher protein complexes comprised of specific protein isoforms likely function in synaptic maturation as well.
Clarin 1 (CLRN1) is a four-transmembrane protein expressed in cochlear hair cells and neural retina, and when mutated it causes Usher syndrome type 3 (USH3). The main human splice variant of CLRN1 is composed of three exons that code for a 232-aa protein. In this study, we aimed to refine the structure of CLRN1 by an examination of transcript splice variants and promoter regions. Analysis of human retinal cDNA revealed 11 CLRN1 splice variants, of which 5 have not been previously reported. We studied the regulation of gene expression by several promoter domains using a luciferase assay, and identified 1000 nt upstream of the translation start site of the primary CLRN1 splice variant as the principal promoter region. Our results suggest that the CLRN1 gene is significantly more complex than previously described. The complexity of the CLRN1 gene and the identification of multiple splice variants may partially explain why mutations in CLRN1 result in substantial variation in clinical phenotype.
Clarin 1; CLRN1; Usher syndrome; USH3; alternative splicing; promoter
Intravitreally injected AAV2 transduced inner retinal cells in a restricted region at the macaque fovea. Because macaque and human eyes are similar, the results suggest a need to improve transduction methods in gene therapy for the human inner retina.
Adeno-associated virus serotype 2 (AAV2) has been shown to be effective in transducing inner retinal neurons after intravitreal injection in several species. However, results in nonprimates may not be predictive of transduction in the human inner retina, because of differences in eye size and the specialized morphology of the high-acuity human fovea. This was a study of inner retina transduction in the macaque, a primate with ocular characteristics most similar to that of humans.
In vivo imaging and histology were used to examine GFP expression in the macaque inner retina after intravitreal injection of AAV vectors containing five distinct promoters.
AAV2 produced pronounced GFP expression in inner retinal cells of the fovea, no expression in the central retina beyond the fovea, and variable expression in the peripheral retina. AAV2 vector incorporating the neuronal promoter human connexin 36 (hCx36) transduced ganglion cells within a dense annulus around the fovea center, whereas AAV2 containing the ubiquitous promoter hybrid cytomegalovirus (CMV) enhancer/chicken-β-actin (CBA) transduced both Müller and ganglion cells in a dense circular disc centered on the fovea. With three shorter promoters—human synapsin (hSYN) and the shortened CBA and hCx36 promoters (smCBA and hCx36sh)—AAV2 produced visible transduction, as seen in fundus images, only when the retina was altered by ganglion cell loss or enzymatic vitreolysis.
The results in the macaque suggest that intravitreal injection of AAV2 would produce high levels of gene expression at the human fovea, important in retinal gene therapy, but not in the central retina beyond the fovea.
Purpose: To identify the educational needs of adults who undergo total hip and total knee replacement surgery.
Methods: A qualitative research design using a semi-standardized interviewing method was employed. A purposive sampling technique was used to recruit participants, who were eligible if they were scheduled to undergo total hip or total knee replacement or had undergone total hip or total knee replacement in the previous 3 to 6 months. A comparative contrast method of analysis was used.
Results: Of 22 potential participants who were approached, 15 participated. Five were booked for upcoming total hip or total knee replacement and 10 had undergone at least one total hip or total knee replacement in the previous 3 to 6 months. Several themes related to specific educational needs and factors affecting educational needs, including access, preoperative phase, surgery and medical recovery, rehabilitation process and functional recovery, fears, and expectations counterbalanced with responsibility, emerged from the interviews.
Conclusions: Educational needs of adults who undergo total hip and knee replacement surgery encompass a broad range of topics, confirming the importance of offering an all-inclusive information package regarding total hip and total knee replacement.
educational needs; patient education; qualitative research; total hip arthroplasty; total knee arthroplasty; arthroplastie totale de la hanche; arthroplastie totale du genou; besoins éducatifs; éducation des patients; recherche qualitative
Gene therapies for retinal degeneration have relied on subretinal delivery of viral vectors carrying therapeutic DNA. The subretinal injection is clearly not ideal as it limits the viral transduction profile to a focal region at the injection site and negatively affects the neural retina by detaching it from the supportive retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). We assessed changes in adeno-associated virus (AAV) dispersion and transduction in the degenerating rat retina after intravitreal delivery. We observed a significant increase in AAV-mediated gene transfer in the diseased compared with normal retina, the extent of which depends on the AAV serotype injected. We also identified key structural changes that correspond to increased viral infectivity. Particle diffusion and transgene accumulation in normal and diseased retina were monitored via fluorescent labeling of viral capsids and quantitative PCR. Viral particles were observed to accumulate at the vitreoretinal junction in normal retina, whereas particles spread into the outer retina and RPE in degenerated tissue. Immunohistochemistry illustrates remarkable changes in the architecture of the inner limiting membrane, which are likely to underlie the increased viral transduction in diseased retina. These data highlight the importance of characterizing gene delivery vectors in diseased tissue as structural and biochemical changes can alter viral vector transduction patterns. Furthermore, these results indicate that gene delivery to the outer nuclear layer may be achieved by noninvasive intravitreal AAV administration in the diseased state.
Kolstad et al. evaluate the distribution of vector particles and transduction of AAV administered intravitreally in diseased versus healthy retinas. Whereas healthy retinas are not very receptive to vector penetration and transduction following intravitreal injection, in retinal degenerations the authors show improved and more extensive gene transfer.
Due to the natural tropism of most viral vectors, including adeno-associated viral (AAV) vectors, efficient gene delivery within the central nervous system and retina occurs primarily to neurons and epithelia. Despite the clinical relevance of glia for homeostasis in neural tissue, and as causal contributors in genetic disorders such as Alzheimer's and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, efforts to develop more efficient gene delivery vectors for glia have met with limited success. Recently, viral vector engineering involving high-throughput random diversification and selection has enabled the rapid creation of novel AAV vectors with valuable new gene delivery properties. We have engineered novel AAV variants capable of efficient glia transduction by employing directed evolution with a panel of four distinct AAV libraries, including a new semi-random peptide replacement strategy. Several novel variants transduced both human and rat astrocytes in vitro up to 15-fold higher than their parent serotypes, and injection into the rat striatum led to astrocyte transduction levels up to 16% of the total transduced cell population. Furthermore, one variant exhibited a substantial shift in tropism towards Müller glia within the retina, further highlighting the general utility of these variants for efficient glia transduction within the CNS and retina.
The ability to resolve single retinal cells in rodents in vivo has applications in rodent models of the visual system and retinal disease. We have characterized the performance of a fluorescence adaptive optics scanning laser ophthalmoscope (fAOSLO) that provides cellular and subcellular imaging of rat retina in vivo.
Green fluorescent protein (eGFP) was expressed in retinal ganglion cells of normal Sprague Dawley rats via intravitreal injections of adeno-associated viral vectors. Simultaneous reflectance and fluorescence retinal images were acquired using the fAOSLO. fAOSLO resolution was characterized by comparing in vivo images with subsequent imaging of retinal sections from the same eyes using confocal microscopy.
Retinal capillaries and eGFP-labeled ganglion cell bodies, dendrites, and axons were clearly resolved in vivo with adaptive optics (AO). AO correction reduced the total root mean square wavefront error, on average, from 0.30 μm to 0.05 μm (1.7-mm pupil). The full width at half maximum (FWHM) of the average in vivo line-spread function (LSF) was ∼1.84 μm, approximately 82% greater than the FWHM of the diffraction-limited LSF.
With perfect aberration compensation, the in vivo resolution in the rat eye could be ∼2× greater than that in the human eye due to its large numerical aperture (∼0.43). While the fAOSLO corrects a substantial fraction of the rat eye's aberrations, direct measurements of retinal image quality reveal some blur beyond that expected from diffraction. Nonetheless, subcellular features can be resolved, offering promise for using AO to investigate the rodent eye in vivo with high resolution.
Usher syndrome 3A (USH3A) is an autosomal recessive disorder characterized by progressive loss of hearing and vision due to mutation in the clarin-1 (CLRN1) gene. Lack of an animal model has hindered our ability to understand the function of CLRN1 and the pathophysiology associated with USH3A. Here we report for the first time a mouse model for ear disease in USH3A. Detailed evaluation of inner ear phenotype in the Clrn1 knockout mouse (Clrn1−/−) coupled with expression pattern of Clrn1 in the inner ear are presented here. Clrn1 was expressed as early as embryonic day 16.5 in the auditory and vestibular hair cells and associated ganglionic neurons, with its expression being higher in outer hair cells (OHCs) than inner hair cells. Clrn1−/− mice showed early onset hearing loss that rapidly progressed to severe levels. Two to three weeks after birth (P14–P21), Clrn1−/− mice showed elevated auditory-evoked brainstem response (ABR) thresholds and prolonged peak and interpeak latencies. By P21, ∼70% of Clrn1−/− mice had no detectable ABR and by P30 these mice were deaf. Distortion product otoacoustic emissions were not recordable from Clrn1−/− mice. Vestibular function in Clrn1−/− mice mirrored the cochlear phenotype, although it deteriorated more gradually than cochlear function. Disorganization of OHC stereocilia was seen as early as P2 and by P21 OHC loss was observed. In sum, hair cell dysfunction and prolonged peak latencies in vestibular and cochlear evoked potentials in Clrn1−/− mice strongly indicate that Clrn1 is necessary for hair cell function and associated neural activation.
A point mutation of the rhodopsin gene results in a mutant Rho-C185R protein and causes dominant retinal degeneration in mice.
To identify a new mouse mutation developing early-onset dominant retinal degeneration, to determine the causative gene mutation, and to investigate the underlying mechanism.
Retinal phenotype was examined by indirect ophthalmoscopy, histology, transmission electron microscopy, immunohistochemistry, Western blot analysis, and electroretinography. Causative gene mutation was determined by genomewide linkage analysis and DNA sequencing. Structural modeling was used to predict the impact of the mutation on protein structure.
An ENU-mutagenized mouse line (R3), displaying attenuated retinal vessels and pigmented patches, was identified by fundus examination. Homozygous R3/R3 mice lost photoreceptors rapidly, leaving only a single row of photoreceptor nuclei at postnatal day 18. The a- and b-waves of ERG were flat in R3/R3 mice, whereas heterozygous R3/+ mice showed reduced amplitude of a- and b-waves. The R3/+ mice had a slower rate of photoreceptor cell loss than compound heterozygous R3/− mice with a null mutant allele. The R3 mutation was mapped and verified to be a rhodopsin point mutation, a c.553T>C for a p.C185R substitution. The side chain of Arg185 impacted on the extracellular loop of the protein. Mutant rhodopsin-C185R protein accumulated in the photoreceptor inner segments, cellular bodies, or both.
Rhodopsin C185R mutation leads to severe retinal degeneration in R3 mutant mice. A dosage-dependent accumulation of misfolded mutant proteins likely triggers or stimulates the death of rod photoreceptors. The presence of a wild-type rhodopsin allele can delay the loss of photoreceptor cells in R3/+ mice.
The pathologies of numerous retinal degenerative diseases can be attributed to a multitude of genetic factors, and individualized treatment options for afflicted patients are limited and cost-inefficient. In light of the shared neurodegenerative phenotype among these disorders, a safe and broad-based neuroprotective approach would be desirable to overcome these obstacles. As a result, gene delivery of secretable-neuroprotective factors to Müller cells, a type of retinal glia that contacts all classes of retinal neurons, represents an ideal approach to mediate protection of the entire retina through a simple and innocuous intraocular, or intravitreal, injection of an efficient vehicle such as an adeno-associated viral vector (AAV). Although several naturally occurring AAV variants have been isolated with a variety of tropisms, or cellular specificities, these vectors inefficiently infect Müller cells via intravitreal injection.
We have previously applied directed evolution to create several novel AAV variants capable of efficient infection of both rat and human astrocytes through iterative selection of a panel of highly diverse AAV libraries. Here, in vivo and in vitro characterization of these isolated variants identifies a previously unreported AAV variant ShH10, closely related to AAV serotype 6 (AAV6), capable of efficient, selective Müller cell infection through intravitreal injection. Importantly, this new variant shows significantly improved transduction relative to AAV2 (>60%) and AAV6.
Our findings demonstrate that AAV is a highly versatile vector capable of powerful shifts in tropism from minor sequence changes. This isolated variant represents a new therapeutic vector to treat retinal degenerative diseases through secretion of neuroprotective factors from Müller cells as well as provides new opportunities to study their biological functions in the retina.
Mutations in the CLRN1 gene cause Usher syndrome type 3 (USH3), a human disease characterized by progressive blindness and deafness. Clarin 1, the protein product of CLRN1, is a four-transmembrane protein predicted to be associated with ribbon synapses of photoreceptors and cochlear hair cells, and recently demonstrated to be associated with the cytoskeleton. To study Clrn1, we created a Clrn1 knockout (KO) mouse and characterized the histological and functional consequences of Clrn1 deletion in the retina and cochlea. Clrn1 KO mice do not develop a retinal degeneration phenotype, but exhibit progressive loss of sensory hair cells in the cochlea and deterioration of the organ of Corti by 4 months. Hair cell stereocilia in KO animals were longer and disorganized by 4 months, and some Clrn1 KO mice exhibited circling behavior by 5–6 months of age. Clrn1 mRNA expression was localized in the retina using in situ hybridization (ISH), laser capture microdissection (LCM), and RT–PCR. Retinal Clrn1 transcripts were found throughout development and adulthood by RT–PCR, although expression peaked at P7 and declined to undetectable levels in adult retina by ISH. LCM localized Clrn1 transcripts to the retinas inner nuclear layer, and WT levels of retinal Clrn1 expression were observed in photoreceptor-less retinas. Examination of Clrn1 KO mice suggests that CLRN1 is unnecessary in the murine retina but essential for normal cochlear development and function. This may reflect a redundancy in the mouse retina not present in human retina. In contrast to mouse KO models of USH1 and USH2, our data indicate that Clrn1 expression in the retina is restricted to the Müller glia. This is a novel finding, as most retinal degeneration associated proteins are expressed in photoreceptors, not in glia. If CLRN1 expression in humans is comparable to the expression pattern observed in mice, this is the first report of an inner retinal protein that, when mutated, causes retinal degeneration.
Usher syndrome (USH) is a progressive disease affecting two primary senses: vision and hearing. Often by the third decade of life, affected persons have lost the majority of their rod photoreceptors, which leads to night blindness and peripheral vision loss. Similarly, hearing loss often progresses into the third or fourth decade. By the fourth decade, patients typically approach legal blindness and hearing impairment continues to decline. The proteins that when mutated cause USH are frequently found in primary sensory cells, photoreceptor and hair cells, that directly respond to light and sound, respectively. Similar to other forms of USH, the mRNA coding for the protein responsible for USH type 3 (CLRN1) is expressed in cochlear hair cells of the inner ear. However, as demonstrated in the current study, and unlike other USH disease proteins in the retina, we show that the Clrn1 is expressed in glial cells in the retina (Müller cells) and is not expressed in the photoreceptors themselves. For reasons that remain unclear, the Clrn1 knockout mouse does not have a retinal degeneration phenotype but does become deaf soon after birth. In the current paper, we characterize the expression pattern in the retina and analyze the effects of removing the Clrn1 gene on vision and hearing.
Mutations of clarin 1 (CLRN1) cause Usher syndrome type 3 (USH3). To determine the effects of USH3 mutations on CLRN1 function, we examined the cellular distribution and stability of both normal and mutant CLRN1 in vitro. We also searched for novel disease-causing mutations in a cohort of 59 unrelated Canadian and Finnish USH patients.
Mutation screening was performed by DNA sequencing. For the functional studies, wild-type (WT) and mutant CLRN1 genes were expressed as hemagglutinin (HA) tagged fusion proteins by transient transfection of BHK-21 cells. Subcellular localization of CLRN1-HA was examined by confocal microscopy. The N-glycosylation status of CLRN1 was studied by using the N-glycosidase F (PNGase F) enzyme and western blotting. Cycloheximide treatment was used to assess the stability of CLRN1 protein.
We found three previously reported pathogenic mutations, p.A123D, p.N48K, and p.Y176X, and a novel sequence variant, p.L54P, from the studied USH patients. The WT HA-tagged CLRN1 was correctly trafficked to the plasma membrane, whereas mutant CLRN1-HA proteins were mislocalized and retained in the endoplasmic reticulum. PNGase F treatment of CLRN1-HA resulted in an electrophoretic mobility shift consistent with sugar residue cleavage in WT and in all CLRN1 mutants except in p.N48K mutated CLRN1, in which the mutation abolishes the glycosylation site. Inhibition of protein expression with cycloheximide indicated that WT CLRN1-HA remained stable. In contrast, the CLRN1 mutants showed reduced stability.
WT CLRN1 is a glycoprotein localized to the plasma membrane in transfected BHK-21 cells. Mutant CLRN1 proteins are mislocalized. We suggest that part of the pathogenesis of USH3 may be associated with defective intracellular trafficking as well as decreased stability of mutant CLRN1 proteins.
Müller cells are well known for their critical role in normal retinal structure and function, but their reaction to retinal injury and subsequent role in retinal remodeling is less well characterized. In this study we used a mouse model of retinal laser photocoagulation to examine injury-induced Müller glial reaction, and determine how this reaction was related to injury-induced retinal regeneration and cellular repopulation.
Experiments were performed on 3–4-week-old C57BL/6 mice. Retinal laser photocoagulation was used to induce small, circumscribed injuries; these were principally confined to the outer nuclear layer, and surrounded by apparently healthy retinal tissue. Western blotting and immunohistochemical analyses were used to determine the level and location of protein expression. Live cell imaging of green fluorescent protein (GFP)-infected Müller cells (AAV-GFAP-GFP) were used to identify the rate and location of retinal Müller cell nuclear migration.
Upon injury, Müller cells directly at the burn site become reactive, as evidenced by increased expression of the intermediate filament proteins glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and nestin. These reactive cells re-enter the cell cycle as shown by expression of the markers Cyclin D1 and D3, and their nuclei begin to migrate toward the injury site at a rate of approximately 12 μm/hr. However, unlike other reports, evidence for Müller cell transdifferentiation was not identified in this model.
Retinal laser photocoagulation is capable of stimulating a significant glial reaction, marked by activation of cell cycle progression and retinal reorganization, but is not capable of stimulating cellular transdifferentiation or neurogenesis.
Most transgenic animal models of retinal degeneration caused by rhodopsin mutations express the rhodopsin transgene on a wild-type (WT) genetic background. Previous studies have demonstrated that one mechanism of retinal degeneration is rhodopsin overexpression. To study the effect of C-terminal truncation of rhodopsin without the confounding factors of overexpression, several lines of transgenic mice were generated that expressed a C-terminal rhodopsin mutation on rhodopsin-knockout backgrounds.
Two lines of transgenic mice, expressing different levels of C-terminal truncated rhodopsin (S334ter) were mated with heterozygous rhodopsin-knockout (rho+/−) mice to express S334ter rhodopsin on a background with reduced endogenous rhodopsin expression. S334ter mice were mated to homozygous knockout (rho−/−) mice to examine the effect of S334ter rhodopsin on a null rhodopsin background. S334ter rhodopsin expression was estimated by Western blot. Retinal function was assessed by ERG and retinal degeneration by histopathology and morphometry. C-terminal rhodopsin sorting and trafficking was examined by fluorescence immunocytochemistry with detection by electron microscope.
Expression of S334ter truncated rhodopsin at low levels in the presence of decreased total rhodopsin in rods (S334ter, rho+/−) increased the rate of rod cell death in comparison to rho+/− littermates. In addition, S334ter rhodopsin prolonged the recovery time of the rod ERG to a light flash and diminished the a-wave amplitudes in comparison to their (rho+/−) littermates. Photoreceptors of S334ter mice on a homozygous rhodopsin-knockout background (S334ter+, rho−/−) had a fraction of mutant rhodopsin localized to the ciliary membranes.
Expression of S334ter rhodopsin without overexpression of total opsin in the rod photoreceptor decreased rod cell contribution to the ERG and compromised rod cell survival in adult mice. The increased cell death may be a consequence of C-terminal truncated rhodopsin mislocalization in membranes of the inner segment. Another possible pathologic mechanism is prolonged activation of phototransduction from the presence of mutant rhodopsin in the outer segment lacking the normal C-terminal binding sites for shutoff by arrestin and phosphorylation. These results suggest that rhodopsin lacking a C-terminal trafficking signal can be transported to the rod outer segment without cotransporting with full-length rhodopsin.