The years 2000 and 2007 witnessed milestones in current understanding of G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) structural biology. In 2000 the first GPCR, bovine rhodopsin, was crystallized and the structure was solved, while in 2007 the structure of β2-adrenergic receptor, the first GPCR with diffusible ligands, was determined owing to advances in microcrystallization and an insertion of the fast-folding lysozyme into the receptor. In parallel with those crystallographic studies, the biological and biochemical characterization of GPCRs has advanced considerably because those receptors are molecular targets for many of currently used drugs. Therefore, the mechanisms of activation and signal transduction to the cell interior deduced from known GPCRs structures are of the highest importance for drug discovery. These proteins are the most diversified membrane receptors encoded by hundreds of genes in our genome. They participate in processes responsible for vision, smell, taste and neuronal transmission in response to photons or binding of ions, hormones, peptides, chemokines and other factors. Although the GPCRs share a common seven-transmembrane α-helical bundle structure their binding sites can accommodate thousands of different ligands. The ligands, including agonists, antagonists or inverse agonists change the structure of the receptor. With bound agonists they can form a complex with a suitable G protein, be phosphorylated by kinases or bind arrestin. The discovered signaling cascades invoked by arrestin independently of G proteins makes the GPCR activating scheme more complex such that a ligand acting as an antagonist for G protein signaling can also act as an agonist in arrestin-dependent signaling. Additionally, the existence of multiple ligand-dependent partial activation states as well as dimerization of GPCRs result in a ‘microprocessor-like’ action of these receptors rather than an ‘on-off’ switch as was commonly believed only a decade ago.
G protein-coupled receptors; rhodopsin; β-adrenergic receptors; chemokine receptors; G protein; arrestin
Biocompatible dendrimers with well-defined nanosizes are increasingly being used as carriers for drug delivery. 5-Aminosalicylic acid (5-ASA) is an FDA approved therapeutic agent recently found effective in treating retinal degeneration of animal models. Here, a water-soluble dendrimer conjugate of 5-ASA (AGFB-ASA) was designed to treat such retinal degeneration. The drug was conjugated to a generation 2 (G2) lysine dendrimer with a silsesquioxane core (nanoglobule) by using a hydrolysable Schiff base spacer. Incubation of nanoglobular G2 dendrimer conjugates containing a 4-formylbenzoate (FB) Schiff base spacer in pH 7.4 phosphate buffers at 37 °C gradually released 5-ASA. Drug release from the dendrimer conjugate was significantly slower than from the low molecular weight free Schiff base of 5-ASA (FB-ASA). 5-ASA release from the dendrimer conjugate was dependent on steric hindrance around the spacer. After intraperitoneal injection, the nanoglobular 5-ASA conjugate provided more effective 7-day protection against light-induced retinal degeneration at a reduced dose than free 5-ASA in Abca4−/−Rdh8−/− mice. The dendrimer 5-ASA conjugate with a degradable spacer could be a good candidate for controlled delivery of 5-ASA to the eye for treatment of retinal degeneration.
dendrimer; 5-aminosalicylic acid; Schiff base; drug delivery; controlled release
Cellular retinaldehyde-binding protein (CRALBP) chaperones 11-cis-retinal to convert opsin receptor molecules into photosensitive retinoid pigments of the eye. We report a thermal secondary isomerase activity of CRALBP when bound to 9-cis-retinal. UV/VIS and 1H-NMR spectroscopy were used to characterize the product as 9,13-dicis-retinal. The X-ray structure of the CRALBP mutant R234W:9-cis-retinal complex at 1.9 Å resolution revealed a niche in the binding-pocket for 9-cis-aldehyde different from that reported for 11-cis-retinal. Combined computational, kinetic, and structural data lead us to propose an isomerization mechanism catalyzed by a network of buried waters. Our findings highlight a specific role of water molecules in both CRALBP-assisted specificity towards 9-cis-retinal and its thermal isomerase activity yielding 9,13-dicis-retinal. Kinetic data from two point mutants of CRALBP support an essential role of Glu202 as the initial proton donor in this isomerization reaction.
Two-photon excitation microscopy (TPM) can image retinal molecular processes in vivo. Intrinsically fluorescent retinyl esters in sub-cellular structures called retinosomes are an integral part of the visual chromophore regeneration pathway. Fluorescent condensation products of all–trans–retinal accumulate in the eye with age and are also associated with age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Here we report repetitive, dynamic imaging of these compounds in live mice, through the pupil of the eye. Leveraging advanced adaptive optics we developed a data acquisition algorithm that permitted the identification of retinosomes and condensation products in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) by their characteristic localization, spectral properties, and absence in genetically modified or drug-treated mice. This imaging approach has the potential to detect early molecular changes in retinoid metabolism that trigger light and AMD-induced retinal defects and to assess the effectiveness of treatments for these conditions.
Noninvasive two-photon imaging of a living mammalian eye can reveal details of molecular processes in the retina and RPE. Retinyl esters and all-trans-retinal condensation products are two types of retinoid fluorophores present in these tissues. We measured the content of these two types of retinoids in monkey and human eyes to validate the potential of two-photon imaging for monitoring retinoid changes in human eyes.
Two-photon microscopy (TPM) was used to visualize excised retina from monkey eyes. Retinoid composition and content in human and monkey eyes were quantified by HPLC and mass spectrometry (MS).
Clear images of inner and outer segments of rods and cones were obtained in primate eyes at different eccentricities. Fluorescence spectra from outer segments revealed a maximum emission at 480 nm indicative of retinols and their esters. In cynomolgus monkey and human retinal extracts, retinyl esters existed predominantly in the 11-cis configuration along with notable levels of 11-cis-retinol, a characteristic of cone-enriched retinas. Average amounts of di-retinoid-pyridinium-ethanolamine (A2E) in primate and human eyes were 160 and 225 pmol/eye, respectively.
These data show that human retina contains sufficient amounts of retinoids for two-photon excitation imaging. Greater amounts of 11-cis-retinyl esters relative to rodent retinas contribute to the fluorescence signal from both monkey and human eyes. These observations indicate that TPM imaging found effective in mice could detect early age- and disease-related changes in human retina.
Two-photon excitation tracks early changes in primate retina.
rod photoreceptors; cone photoreceptors; retinoid cycle; two-photon microscopy; primate retina
Carotenoids and their metabolic derivatives serve critical functions in both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, including pigmentation, photoprotection and photosynthesis as well as cell signaling. These organic compounds are also important for visual function in vertebrate and non-vertebrate organisms. Enzymatic transformations of carotenoids to various apocarotenoid products are catalyzed by a family of evolutionarily conserved, non-heme iron-containing enzymes named carotenoid cleavage oxygenases (CCOs). Studies have revealed that CCOs are critically involved in carotenoid homeostasis and essential for the health of organisms including humans. These enzymes typically display a high degree of regio- and stereo-selectivity, acting on specific positions of the polyene backbone located in their substrates. By oxidatively cleaving or isomerizing specific double bonds, CCOs generate a variety of apocarotenoid isomer products. Recent structural studies have helped illuminate the mechanisms by which CCOs mobilize their lipophilic substrates from biological membranes to perform their characteristic double bond cleavage and/or isomerization reactions. In this review, we aim to integrate structural and biochemical information about CCOs to provide insights into their catalytic mechanisms.
carotenoid oxygenase; carotenoid; apocarotenoid; ACO; VP14; RPE65
The formal first step in in vitamin A metabolism is the conversion of its natural precursor β,β-carotene (C40) to retinaldehyde (C20) This reaction is catalyzed by the enzyme β,β-carotene-15,15′-monooxygenase (BCMO1). BCMO1 has been cloned from several vertebrate species, including humans. However, knowledge about this protein’s enzymatic and structural properties is scant. Here we expressed human BCMO1 in Spodoptera frugiperda 9 insect cells. Recombinant BCMO1 is a soluble protein that displayed Michaelis-Menten kinetics with a KM of 14 μM for β,β-carotene. Though addition of detergents failed to increase BCMO1 enzymatic activity, short chain aliphatic detergents such as C8E4 and C8E6 decreased enzymatic activity probably by interacting with the substrate binding site. Thus we purified BCMO1 in the absence of detergent. Purified BCMO1 was a monomeric enzymatically active soluble protein that did not require cofactors and displayed a turnover rate of about 8 molecules of β,β-carotene per second. The aqueous solubility of BCMO1 was confirmed in mouse liver and mammalian cells. Establishment of a protocol that yields highly active homogenous BCMO1 is an important step towards clarifying the lipophilic substrate interaction, reaction mechanism and structure of this vitamin A forming enzyme.
β,β-carotene; all-trans-retinal; vitamin A; β,β-carotene-15; 15′-monooxygenase; cytosolic; symmetric carotenoid cleavage; non-heme iron oxygenase
Continuous generation of visual chromophore through the visual (retinoid) cycle is essential to maintain eyesight and retinal heath. Impairments in this cycle and related pathways adversely affect vision. In this review, we summarize the chemical reactions of vitamin A metabolites involved in the retinoid cycle and describe animal models of associated human diseases. Development of potential therapies for retinal disorders in these animal models is also introduced.
Determine the impact of rod photoreceptor-specific expression of Cre recombinase on the kinetics of phototransduction in the mouse eye and identify changes in gene expression that underlie any observed phenotypic differences.
Transretinal ERG and single-cell suction electrode recordings were used to measure the kinetics of phototransduction in a mouse line exhibiting rod photoreceptor–specific Cre recombinase expression, and the results were compared with those from control non–Cre-expressing littermates. Gene expression changes were evaluated using RNA sequencing transcriptome analysis. The pattern of expression of Rgs9bp was determined by mapping sequencing reads to the mouse genome and performing 3′-rapid amplification of cDNA ends (3′-RACE).
Expression of the rod-specific iCre75 transgene was accompanied by accelerated phototransduction inactivation, likely due to overexpression of the Rgs9bp gene, which encodes the Rgs9 anchor protein (R9AP). R9AP upregulation stabilized the RGS9 GAP complex, altering phototransduction kinetics. 3′-Race identified an abundant, unexpected Rgs9bp-Prm1 fusion mRNA in Cre-expressing mouse retinas, which was determined to be derived from a second transgene present in the iCre75 line.
Here we report the presence of a second, R9AP-expressing transgene in the iCre75 mouse line, leading to altered kinetics of phototransduction. These results highlight an important caveat that must be considered when utilizing this mouse line for rod photoreceptor–specific gene loss of function studies.
We report that the presence of a second R9AP-expressing transgene in the iCre75 mouse line influences the rate of recovery of phototransduction.
rod photoreceptors; phototransduction; Cre recombinase; mouse; retina; R9AP
RDH12 has been suggested to be one of the retinol dehydrogenases (RDH) involved in the vitamin A recycling system (visual cycle) in the eye. Loss of function mutations in the RDH12 gene were recently reported to be associated with autosomal recessive childhood-onset severe retinal dystrophy. Here we show that RDH12 localizes to the photoreceptor inner segments and that deletion of this gene in mice slows the kinetics of all-trans-retinal reduction, delaying dark adaptation. However, accelerated 11-cis-retinal production and increased susceptibility to light-induced photoreceptor apoptosis were also observed in Rdh12−/− mice, suggesting that RDH12 plays a unique, nonredundant role in the photoreceptor inner segments to regulate the flow of retinoids in the eye. Thus, severe visual impairments of individuals with null mutations in RDH12 may likely be caused by light damage1.
The discovery that the mammalian transcriptome encodes thousands of long intergenic non-coding (linc) RNA transcripts, together with recent evidence that lincRNAs can regulate protein-coding genes, has added a new level of complexity to cellular transcriptional/translational regulation. Indeed several reports now link mutations in lincRNAs to heritable human disorders. Here, we identified a subset of lincRNAs in terminally differentiated adult human retinal neurons based on their sequence conservation across species. RNA sequencing of eye tissue from several mammalian species with varied rod/cone photoreceptor content identified 18 lincRNAs that were highly conserved across these species. Sixteen of the 18 were conserved in human retinal tissue with 14 of these also conserved in the macular region. A subset of lincRNAs exhibited restricted tissue expression profiles in mice, with preferential expression in the retina. Mouse models with different populations of retinal cells as well as in situ hybridization provided evidence that these lincRNAs localized to specific retinal compartments, most notably to the photoreceptor neuronal layer. Computational genomic loci and promoter region analyses provided a basis for regulated expression of these conserved lincRNAs in retinal post-mitotic neurons. This combined approach identified several lincRNAs that could be critical for retinal and visual maintenance in adults.
Photon absorption by rhodopsin triggers the phototransduction signaling pathway that culminates in degradation of cGMP, closure of cGMP-gated ion channels and hyperpolarization of the photoreceptor membrane. This process is accompanied by a decrease in free Ca2+ concentration in the photoreceptor cytosol sensed by Ca2+-binding proteins that modulate phototransduction and activate the recovery phase to reestablish the photoreceptor dark potential. Guanylate cyclase-activating proteins (GCAPs) belong to the neuronal calcium sensor (NCS) family and are responsible for activating retinal guanylate cyclases (retGCs) at low Ca2+ concentrations triggering synthesis of cGMP and recovery of the dark potential. Here we review recent structural insight into the role of the N-terminal myristoylation in GCAPs and compare it to other NCS family members. We discuss previous studies identifying regions of GCAPs important for retGC1 regulation in the context of the new structural data available for myristoylated GCAP1. In addition, we present a hypothetical model for the Ca2+-triggered conformational change in GCAPs and retGC1 regulation. Finally, we briefly discuss the involvement of mutant GCAP1 proteins in the etiology of retinal degeneration as well as the importance of other Ca2+ sensors in the modulation of phototransduction.
Constituting the largest group of membrane proteins identified in the human genome, G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) help control many physiological processes by responding to various stimuli. As targets for more than 40% of all prescribed pharmaceuticals, detailed understanding of GPCR structures is vital for the design and development of more specific medications and improved patient therapies. But structural information for membrane proteins and GPCRs, in particular, is limited despite considerable interest. The major impediment to obtaining sufficient quantities of highly purified GPCRs in their native form for crystallization lies in their low tissue levels, poor yields, and stability. The only exception is rhodopsin, which is abundantly expressed in the eye and stabilized by its covalently bound chromophore, 11-cis-retinal. Expression systems and purification protocols have yet to be developed for all other GPCRs. Here, we present a novel expression system for human GPCRs in Caenorhabditis elegans that produces sufficient amounts of recombinant proteins to allow their biochemical and structural characterization.
Regeneration of the chromophore 11-cis-retinal is essential for the generation of light-sensitive visual pigments in the vertebrate retina. A deficiency in 11-cis-retinal production leads to congenital blindness in humans; however, a buildup of the photoisomerized chromophore can also be detrimental. Such is the case when the photoisomerized all-trans-retinal is produced but cannot be efficiently cleared from the internal membrane of the outer segment discs. Sustained increase of all-trans-retinal can lead to the formation of toxic condensation products in the eye. Thus, there is a need for potent, selective inhibitors that can regulate the flux of retinoids through the metabolism pathway termed the visual (retinoid) cycle. Here we systematically study the effects of the most potent inhibitor of this cycle, retinylamine (Ret-NH2), on visual function in mice. Prolonged, sustainable, but reversible suppression of the visual function was observed by Ret-NH2 as a result of its storage in a prodrug form, N-retinylamides. Direct comparison of other inhibitors such as fenretinide and 13-cis-retinoic acid showed multiple advantages of Ret-NH2 and its amides, including a higher potency, specificity, and lower transcription activation. Our results also revealed that mice treated with Ret-NH2 were completely resistant to the light-induced retina damage. As an experimental tool, Ret-NH2 allows the replacement of the native chromophore with synthetic analogs in wild-type mice to better understand the function of the chromophore in the activation of rhodopsin and its metabolism through the retinoid cycle.
ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters use ATP to translocate various substrates across cellular membranes. Several members of subfamily A of mammalian ABC transporters are associated with severe health disorders, but their unusual complexity and large size have so far precluded structural characterization. ABCA4 is localized to the discs of vertebrate photoreceptor outer segments. This protein transports N-retinylidene-phosphatidylethanolamine to the outer side of disc membranes to prevent formation of toxic compounds causing macular degeneration. An 18 Å-resolution structure of ABCA4 isolated from bovine rod outer segments was determined using electron microscopy and single-particle reconstruction. Significant conformational changes in the cytoplasmic and transmembrane regions were observed upon binding of a non-hydrolysable ATP analogue and accompanied by altered hydrogen/deuterium exchange in the Walker A motif of one of the nucleotide-binding domains. These findings provide an initial view of the molecular organization and functional rearrangements for any member of the ABCA subfamily of ABC transporters.
Upon illumination the visual receptor rhodopsin (Rho) transitions to the activated form Rho*, which binds the heterotrimeric G protein, transducin (Gt) causing GDP to GTP exchange and Gt dissociation. Using succinylated concanavalin A (sConA) as a probe, we visualized native Rho dimers solubilized in 1 mM n-dodecyl-β-D-maltoside (DDM) and Rho monomers 5 mM in DDM. By nucleotide depletion and affinity chromatography together with crosslinking and size exclusion chromatography, we trapped and purified nucleotide-free Rho*•Gt and sConA-Rho*•Gt complexes kept in solution by either DDM or lauryl-maltose-neopentyl-glycol (LMNG). The 3-D envelope calculated from projections of negatively stained Rho*•Gt-LMNG complexes accommodated two Rho molecules, one Gt heterotrimer and a detergent belt. Visualization of triple sConA-Rho*•Gt complexes unequivocally demonstrated a pentameric assembly of the Rho*•Gt complex in which the photoactivated Rho* dimer serves as a platform for binding the Gt heterotrimer. Importantly, individual monomers of the Rho* dimer in the heteropentameric complex exhibited different capabilities to be regenerated with either 11-cis or 9-cis-retinal.
G protein-coupled receptor; heterotrimeric G protein; photoactivated rhodopsin dimer; transmission electron microscopy; transducin
Inherently unstable, detergent-solubilized membrane protein complexes can often not be crystallized. For complexes that have a mass of >300 kDa, cryo-electron microscopy (EM) allows their three-dimensional (3D) structure to be assessed to a resolution that makes secondary structure elements visible in the best case. However, many interesting complexes exist whose mass is below 300 kDa and thus need alternative approaches. Two methods are reviewed: (i) Mass measurement in a scanning transmission electron microscope, which has provided important information on the stoichiometry of membrane protein complexes. This technique is applicable to particulate, filamentous and sheet-like structures. (ii) 3D-EM of negatively stained samples, which determines the molecular envelope of small membrane protein complexes. Staining and dehydration artifacts may corrupt the quality of the 3D map. Staining conditions thus need to be optimized. 3D maps of plant aquaporin SoPIP2;1 tetramers solubilized in different detergents illustrate that the flattening artifact can be partially prevented and that the detergent itself contributes significantly. Another example discussed is the complex of G protein-coupled receptor rhodopsin with its cognate G protein transducin.
3D-electron microscopy; detergent belt; membrane protein complex; negative staining; rhodopsin-transducin complex; scanning transmission electron microscopy
Autosomal dominant late-onset retinal macular degeneration (L-ORMD) is caused by a single S163R mutation in the C1q and tumor necrosis factor-related protein 5 (C1QTNF5) gene. The C1QTNF5 gene encodes a secreted and membrane-associated protein involved in adhesion of retinal pigmented epithelial cells (RPE) to Bruch’s membrane. The crystal structure of the trimeric globular domain of human C1QTNF5 at 1.34 Å resolution reveals unique features of this novel C1q family member. It lacks a Ca2+-binding site, displays a remarkable non-uniform distribution of surface electrostatic potentials and possesses a unique sequence (F181F182G183G184W185P186) that forms a hydrophobic plateau surrounded by Lys and Arg residues with a solvent cavity underneath. S163 forms a hydrogen bond with F182 in a hydrophobic area extending to the hydrophobic plateau. The pathogenic mutation S163R disrupts this hydrogen bonding and positively charges these hydrophobic areas. Thus, our analysis provides insights into the structural basis of the L-ORMD disease mechanism.
L-ORMD; L-ORD; age-related macular degeneration; AMD; CTRP5; drusen
A systems pharmacological approach that capitalizes on the characterization of intracellular signaling networks can transform our understanding of human diseases and lead to therapy development. Here, we applied this strategy to identify pharmacological targets for the treatment of Stargardt disease, a severe juvenile form of macular degeneration. Diverse GPCRs have previously been implicated in neuronal cell survival, and crosstalk between GPCR signaling pathways represents an unexplored avenue for pharmacological intervention. We focused on this receptor family for potential therapeutic interventions in macular disease. Complete transcriptomes of mouse and human samples were analyzed to assess the expression of GPCRs in the retina. Focusing on adrenergic (AR) and serotonin (5-HT) receptors, we found that adrenoceptor α 2C (Adra2c) and serotonin receptor 2a (Htr2a) were the most highly expressed. Using a mouse model of Stargardt disease, we found that pharmacological interventions that targeted both GPCR signaling pathways and adenylate cyclases (ACs) improved photoreceptor cell survival, preserved photoreceptor function, and attenuated the accumulation of pathological fluorescent deposits in the retina. These findings demonstrate a strategy for the identification of new drug candidates and FDA-approved drugs for the treatment of monogenic and complex diseases.
The developing mammalian embryo is entirely dependent on the maternal circulation for its supply of retinoids (vitamin A and its metabolites). The mechanisms through which mammalian developing tissues maintain adequate retinoid levels in the face of suboptimal or excessive maternal dietary vitamin A intake have not been established. We investigated the role of retinyl ester formation catalyzed by lecithin:retinol acyltransferase (LRAT) in regulating retinoid homeostasis during embryogenesis. Dams lacking both LRAT and retinol-binding protein (RBP), the sole specific carrier for retinol in serum, were maintained on diets containing different amounts of vitamin A during pregnancy. We hypothesized that the lack of both proteins would make the embryo more vulnerable to changes in maternal dietary vitamin A intake. Our data demonstrate that maternal dietary vitamin A deprivation during pregnancy generates a severe retinoid-deficient phenotype of the embryo due to the severe retinoid-deficient status of the double mutant dams rather than to the lack of LRAT in the developing tissues. Moreover, in the case of excessive maternal dietary vitamin A intake, LRAT acts together with Cyp26A1, one of the enzymes that catalyze the degradation of retinoic acid, and possibly with STRA6, the recently identified cell surface receptor for retinol-RBP, in maintaining adequate levels of retinoids in embryonic and extraembryonic tissues. In contrast, the pathway of retinoic acid synthesis does not contribute significantly to regulating retinoid homeostasis during mammalian development except under conditions of severe maternal retinoid deficiency.
Though in vivo two-photon imaging has been demonstrated in non-human primates, improvements in the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) would greatly improve its scientific utility. In this study, extrinsic fluorophores, expressed in otherwise transparent retinal ganglion cells, were imaged in the living mouse eye using a two-photon fluorescence adaptive optics scanning laser ophthalmoscope. We recorded two orders of magnitude greater signal levels from extrinsically labeled cells relative to previous work done in two-photon autofluorescence imaging of primates. Features as small as single dendrites in various layers of the retina could be resolved and predictions are made about the feasibility of measuring functional response from cells. In the future, two-photon imaging in the intact eye may allow us to monitor the function of retinal cell classes with infrared light that minimally excites the visual response.
(330.4460) Ophthalmic optics and devices; (180.4315) Nonlinear microscopy; (170.0110) Imaging systems
G protein–coupled receptor (GPCR) kinases (GRKs) instigate the desensitization of activated GPCRs via phosphorylation that promotes interaction with arrestins, thereby preventing the interaction of GPCRs with heterotrimeric G proteins. A current proposed model of GRK1 activation involves the binding of activated rhodopsin (Rho*) to the N–terminal region of GRK1. Perhaps concomitantly, this N–terminal region also stabilizes a closed, active conformation of the kinase domain. To further probe this model, we mapped changes in the backbone flexibility of GRK1 as it binds to its two substrates, adenosine triphosphate (Mg2+·ATP) and Rho*. We found that the conformational flexibility of GRK1 was reduced in the presence of either Mg2+·ATP and/or Rho*, with Mg2+·ATP having the greatest effect. In a truncated form of GRK1 lacking the N–terminal region (ΔN–GRK1), peptides that directly interact with ATP were not as dramatically stabilized by adding Mg2+·ATP, and dynamics were greater in the interface between the large lobe of the kinase domain and the regulator of G protein signaling homology domain. In the presence of Mg2+·ATP, the influence of Rho* versus Rho was negligible on GRK1 dynamics.
All-trans-retinal and its condensation-products can cause retinal degeneration in a light–dependent manner and contribute to the pathogenesis of human macular diseases such as Stargardt’s disease and age–related macular degeneration (AMD). Although these toxic retinoid by–products originate from rod and cone photoreceptor cells, the contribution of each cell type to light–induced retinal degeneration is unknown. Here the primary objective was to learn whether rods or cones are more susceptible to light–induced, all–trans–retinal–mediated damage. Previously, we reported that mice lacking enzymes that clear all–trans–retinal from the retina, ATP–binding cassette transporter 4 (ABCA4) and retinol dehydrogenase 8 (RDH8), manifested light-induced retinal dystrophy. We first examined early-stage-AMD patients and found retinal degenerative changes in rod-rich rather than cone-rich regions of the macula. We then evaluated transgenic mice with rod–only and cone–like–only retinas in addition to progenies of such mice inbred with Rdh8−/− Abca4−/− mice. Of all these strains, Rdh8−/− Abca4−/− mice with a mixed rod–cone population showed the most severe retinal degeneration under regular cyclic light conditions. Intense light exposure induced acute retinal damage in Rdh8−/− Abca4−/− and rod–only mice but not cone–like–only mice. These findings suggest that progression of retinal degeneration in Rdh8-/- Abca4-/- mice is affected by differential vulnerability of rods and cones to light.
visual cycle; photoreceptor; retinoid; retina; Stargardt’s disease; age-related macular degeneration
The transducin GTPase-accelerating protein complex, which determines the photoresponse duration of photoreceptors, is composed of RGS9-1, Gβ5L and R9AP. Here we report that RGS9-1 and Gβ5L change their distribution in rods during light/dark adaptation. Upon prolonged dark adaptation, RGS9-1 and Gβ5L are primarily located in rod inner segments. But very dim-light exposure quickly translocates them to the outer segments. In contrast, their anchor protein R9AP remains in the outer segment at all times. In the dark, Gβ5L's interaction with R9AP decreases significantly and RGS9-1 is phosphorylated at S475 to a significant degree. Dim light exposure leads to quick de-phosphorylation of RGS9-1. Furthermore, after prolonged dark adaptation, RGS9-1 and transducin Gα are located in different cellular compartments. These results suggest a previously unappreciated mechanism by which prolonged dark adaptation leads to increased light sensitivity in rods by dissociating RGS9-1 from R9AP and redistributing it to rod inner segments.