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1.  Regulatory regions of the paraoxonase 1 (PON1) gene are associated with neovascular age-related macular degeneration (AMD) 
Age  2012;35(5):1651-1662.
Physiological stress response and oxidative damage are factors for aging processes and, as such, are thought to contribute to neovascular age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Paraoxonase 1 (PON1) is an enzyme that plays an important role in oxidative stress and aging. We investigated association of DNA sequence variants (SNP) within the upstream regulatory region of the PON1 gene with neovascular AMD in 305 patients and 288 controls. Four of the seven tested SNPs (rs705379, rs705381, rs854573, and rs757158) were more frequently found in AMD patients compared to controls (P = 0.0099, 0.0295, 0.0121, and 0.0256, respectively), and all but one (SNP rs757158) are in linkage disequilibrium. Furthermore, haplotype TGGCCTC conferred protection (odds ratio (OR) = 0.76, (CI) = 0.60–0.97) as it was more frequently found in control individuals, while haplotype CGATGCT increased the risk (OR = 1.55, CI = 1.09–2.21) for AMD. These results were also reflected when haplotypes for the untranscribed and the 5′untranslated regions (5′UTR) were analyzed separately. To assess haplotype correlation with levels of gene expression, the three SNPs within the 5′UTR were tested in a luciferase reporter assay. In retinal pigment epithelium-derived ARPE19 cells, we were able to measure significant differences in reporter levels, while this was not observed in kidney-derived HEK293 cells. The presence of the risk allele A (SNP rs705381) caused an increase in luciferase activity of approximately twofold. Our data support the view that inflammatory reactions mediated through anti-oxidative activity may be relevant to neovascular age-related macular degeneration.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11357-012-9467-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3776091  PMID: 22956172
Paraoxonase 1; Gene regulation; SNP association; Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
2.  The erythropoietin receptor is not required for the development, function, and aging of rods and cells in the retinal periphery 
Molecular Vision  2014;20:307-324.
Erythropoietin (EPO) was originally described for its antiapoptotic effects on erythroid progenitor cells in bone marrow. In recent years, however, EPO has also been shown to be cytoprotective in several tissues, including the retina. There, exogenous application of EPO was reported to exert neuro- and vasoprotection in several models of retinal injury. EPO and the erythropoietin receptor (EPOR) are expressed in the retina, but the role of endogenous EPO-EPOR signaling in this tissue remains elusive. Here, we investigated the consequences for cell physiology and survival when EpoR is ablated in rod photoreceptors or in the peripheral retina.
Two mouse lines were generated harboring a cyclization recombinase (CRE)-mediated knockdown of EpoR in rod photoreceptors (EpoRflox/flox;Opn-Cre) or in a heterogeneous cell population of the retinal periphery (EpoRflox/flox;α-Cre). The function of the retina was measured with electroretinography. Retinal morphology was analyzed in tissue sections. The vasculature of the retina was investigated on flatmount preparations, cryosections, and fluorescein angiography. Retinal nuclear layers were isolated by laser capture microdissection to test for EpoR expression. Gene expression analysis was performed with semiquantitative real-time PCR. To test if the absence of EPOR potentially increases retinal susceptibility to hypoxic stress, the knockdown mice were exposed to hypoxia.
Newborn mice had lower retinal expression levels of EpoR and soluble EpoR (sEpoR) than the adult wild-type mice. In the adult mice, the EpoR transcripts were elevated in the inner retinal layers, while expression in the photoreceptors was low. CRE-mediated deletion in the EpoRflox/flox;Opn-Cre mice led to a decrease in EpoR mRNA expression in the outer nuclear layer. A significant decrease in EpoR expression was measured in the retina of the EpoRflox/flox;α-Cre mice, accompanied by a strong and significant decrease in sEpoR expression. Analysis of the retinal morphology in the two knockdown lines did not reveal any developmental defects or signs of accelerated degeneration in the senescent tissue. Similarly, retinal function was not altered under scotopic and photopic conditions. In addition, EpoR knockdown had no influence on cell viability under acute hypoxic conditions. Retinal angiogenesis and vasculature were normal in the absence of EPOR. However, expression of some EPOR-signaling target genes was significantly altered in the retinas of the EpoRflox/flox;α-Cre mice.
Our data suggest that expression of EPOR in rod photoreceptors, Müller cells, and amacrine, horizontal, and ganglion cells of the peripheral retina is not required for the maturation, function, and survival of these cells in aging tissue. Based on the expression of the EPOR-signaling target genes, we postulate that expression of soluble EPOR in the retina may modulate endogenous EPO-EPOR signaling.
PMCID: PMC3955415  PMID: 24644405
4.  A helix-breaking mutation in the epithelial Ca2+ channel TRPV5 leads to reduced Ca2+-dependent inactivation 
Cell calcium  2010;48(5):275-287.
TRPV5, a member of transient receptor potential (TRP) superfamily of ion channels, plays a crucial role in epithelial calcium transport in the kidney. This channel has a high selectivity for Ca2+ and is tightly regulated by intracellular Ca2+ concentrations. Recently it was shown that the molecular basis of deafness in varitint-waddler mouse is the result of hair cell death caused by the constitutive activity of transient receptor potential mucolipin 3 (TRPML3) channel carrying a helix breaking mutation, A419P, at the intracellular proximity of the fifth transmembrane domain (TM5). This mutation significantly elevates intracellular Ca2+ concentration and causes rapid cell death. Here we show that substituting the equivalent location in TRPV5, the M490, to proline significantly modulates Ca2+-dependent inactivation of TRPV5. The single channel conductance, time constant of inactivation (τ) and half maximal inhibition constant (IC50) of TRPV5(M490P) were increased compared to TRPV5(WT). Moreover TRPV5(M490P) showed lower Ca2+ permeability. Out of different point mutations created to characterize the importance of M490 in Ca2+-dependent inactivation, only TRPV5(M490P)-expressing cells showed apoptosis and extremely altered Ca2+-dependent inactivation. In conclusion, the TRPV5 channel is susceptible for helix breaking mutations and the proximal intracellular region of TM5 of this channel plays an important role in Ca2+-dependent inactivation.
PMCID: PMC3780571  PMID: 21035851
5.  A Novel Ion Channel Formed by Interaction of TRPML3 with TRPV5 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e58174.
TRPML3 and TRPV5 are members of the mucolipin (TRPML) and TRPV subfamilies of transient receptor potential (TRP) cation channels. Based on sequence similarities of the pore forming regions and on structure-function evidence, we hypothesized that the pore forming domains of TRPML and TRPV5/TRPV6 channels have similarities that indicate possible functional interactions between these TRP channel subfamilies. Here we show that TRPML3 and TRPV5 associate to form a novel heteromeric ion channel. This novel conductance is detectable under conditions that do not activate either TRPML3 or TRPV5. It has pharmacological similarity with TRPML3 and requires functional TRPML3 as well as functional TRPV5. Single channel analyses revealed that TRPML3 and TRPV5 heteromers have different features than the respective homomers, and furthermore, that they occur in potentially distinct stoichiometric configurations. Based on overlapping expression of TRPML3 and TRPV5 in the kidney and the inner ear, we propose that TRPML3 and TRPV5 heteromers could have a biological function in these organs.
PMCID: PMC3585263  PMID: 23469151
6.  CDC42 Is Required for Tissue Lamination and Cell Survival in the Mouse Retina 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e53806.
The small GTPase CDC42 has pleiotropic functions during development and in the adult. These functions include intra- as well as intercellular tasks such as organization of the cytoskeleton and, at least in epithelial cells, formation of adherens junctions. To investigate CDC42 in the neuronal retina, we generated retina-specific Cdc42-knockdown mice (Cdc42-KD) and analyzed the ensuing consequences for the developing and postnatal retina. Lack of CDC42 affected organization of the developing retina as early as E17.5, prevented correct tissue lamination, and resulted in progressive retinal degeneration and severely reduced retinal function of the postnatal retina. Despite the disorganization of the retina, formation of the primary vascular plexus was not strongly affected. However, both deeper vascular plexi developed abnormally with no clear layering of the vessels. Retinas of Cdc42-KD mice showed increased expression of pro-survival, but also of pro-apoptotic and pro-inflammatory genes and exhibited prolonged Müller glia hypertrophy. Thus, functional CDC42 is important for correct tissue organization already during retinal development. Its absence leads to severe destabilization of the postnatal retina with strong degeneration and loss of retinal function.
PMCID: PMC3553133  PMID: 23372671
7.  PGC-1α Determines Light Damage Susceptibility of the Murine Retina 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e31272.
The peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ coactivator 1 (PGC-1) proteins are key regulators of cellular bioenergetics and are accordingly expressed in tissues with a high energetic demand. For example, PGC-1α and PGC-1β control organ function of brown adipose tissue, heart, brain, liver and skeletal muscle. Surprisingly, despite their prominent role in the control of mitochondrial biogenesis and oxidative metabolism, expression and function of the PGC-1 coactivators in the retina, an organ with one of the highest energy demands per tissue weight, are completely unknown. Moreover, the molecular mechanisms that coordinate energy production with repair processes in the damaged retina remain enigmatic. In the present study, we thus investigated the expression and function of the PGC-1 coactivators in the healthy and the damaged retina. We show that PGC-1α and PGC-1β are found at high levels in different structures of the mouse retina, most prominently in the photoreceptors. Furthermore, PGC-1α knockout mice suffer from a striking deterioration in retinal morphology and function upon detrimental light exposure. Gene expression studies revealed dysregulation of all major pathways involved in retinal damage and apoptosis, repair and renewal in the PGC-1α knockouts. The light-induced increase in apoptosis in vivo in the absence of PGC-1α was substantiated in vitro, where overexpression of PGC-1α evoked strong anti-apoptotic effects. Finally, we found that retinal levels of PGC-1 expression are reduced in different mouse models for retinitis pigmentosa. We demonstrate that PGC-1α is a central coordinator of energy production and, importantly, all of the major processes involved in retinal damage and subsequent repair. Together with the observed dysregulation of PGC-1α and PGC-1β in retinitis pigmentosa mouse models, these findings thus imply that PGC-1α might be an attractive target for therapeutic approaches aimed at retinal degeneration diseases.
PMCID: PMC3278422  PMID: 22348062
8.  Small molecule activators of TRPML3 
Chemistry & biology  2010;17(2):135-148.
We conducted a high-throughput screen for small molecule activators of the TRPML3 ion channel which, when mutated, causes deafness and pigmentation defects. Cheminformatics analyses of the 53 identified and confirmed compounds revealed nine different chemical scaffolds and 20 singletons. We found that agonists strongly potentiated TRPML3 activation with low extracytosolic [Na+]. This synergism revealed existence of distinct and cooperative activation mechanisms, and a wide dynamic range of TRPML3 activity. Testing compounds on TRPML3-expressing sensory hair cells revealed absence of activator-responsive channels. Epidermal melanocytes showed only weak or no responses to the compounds. These results suggest that TRPML3 in native cells might be absent from the plasma membrane or that the protein is a subunit of heteromeric channels that are non-responsive to the activators identified in this screen.
PMCID: PMC2834294  PMID: 20189104
9.  Gene Therapy Regenerates Protein Expression in Cone Photoreceptors in Rpe65R91W/R91W Mice 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(2):e16588.
Cone photoreceptors mediate visual acuity under daylight conditions, so loss of cone-mediated central vision of course dramatically affects the quality of life of patients suffering from retinal degeneration. Therefore, promoting cone survival has become the goal of many ocular therapies and defining the stage of degeneration that still allows cell rescue is of prime importance. Using the Rpe65R91W/R91W mouse, which carries a mutation in the Rpe65 gene leading to progressive photoreceptor degeneration in both patients and mice, we defined stages of retinal degeneration that still allow cone rescue. We evaluated the therapeutic window within which cones can be rescued, using a subretinal injection of a lentiviral vector driving expression of RPE65 in the Rpe65R91W/R91W mice. Surprisingly, when applied to adult mice (1 month) this treatment not only stalls or slows cone degeneration but, actually, induces cone-specific protein expression that was previously absent. Before the intervention only part of the cones (40% of the number found in wild-type animals) in the Rpe65R91W/R91W mice expressed cone transducin (GNAT2); this fraction increased to 64% after treatment. Correct S-opsin localization is also recovered in the transduced region. In consequence these results represent an extended therapeutic window compared to the Rpe65-/- mice, implying that patients suffering from missense mutations might also benefit from a prolonged therapeutic window. Moreover, cones are not only rescued during the course of the degeneration, but can actually recover their initial status, meaning that a proportion of altered cones in chromophore deficiency-related disease can be rehabilitated even though they are severely affected.
PMCID: PMC3033393  PMID: 21304899
10.  Genetic Inactivation of Trpml3 Does Not Lead to Hearing and Vestibular Impairment in Mice 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(12):e14317.
TRPML3, a member of the transient receptor potential (TRP) family, is an inwardly rectifying, non-selective Ca2+-permeable cation channel that is regulated by extracytosolic Na+ and H+ and can be activated by a variety of small molecules. The severe auditory and vestibular phenotype of the TRPML3(A419P) varitint-waddler mutation made this protein particularly interesting for inner ear biology. To elucidate the physiological role of murine TRPML3, we conditionally inactivated Trpml3 in mice. Surprisingly, lack of functional TRPML3 did not lead to circling behavior, balance impairment or hearing loss.
PMCID: PMC3001452  PMID: 21179200
11.  Spectral Domain Optical Coherence Tomography in Mouse Models of Retinal Degeneration 
Spectral domain optical coherence tomography (SD-OCT) allows cross-sectional visualization of retinal structures in vivo. Here, we report the efficacy of a commercially available SD-OCT device to study mouse models of retinal degeneration.
C57BL/6 and BALB/c wild type mice and three different mouse models of hereditary retinal degeneration (Rho-/-, rd1, RPE65-/-) were investigated using confocal scanning laser ophthalmoscopy (cSLO) for en face visualization and SD-OCT for cross-sectional imaging of retinal structures. Histology was performed to correlate structural findings in SD-OCT with light microscopic data.
In C57BL/6 and BALB/c mice, cSLO and SD-OCT imaging provided structural details of frequently used control animals (central retinal thickness, CRTC57BL/6 = 237±2μm and CRTBALB/c = 211±10μm). RPE65-/- mice at 11 months of age showed a significant reduction of retinal thickness (CRTRPE65 = 193±2μm) with thinning of the outer nuclear layer. Rho-/- mice at P28 demonstrated degenerative changes mainly in the outer retinal layers (CRTRho = 193±2μm). Examining rd1 animals before and after the onset of retinal degeneration allowed to monitor disease progression (CRTrd1 P11 = 246±4μm, CRTrd1 P28 = 143±4μm). Correlation of CRT assessed by histology and SD-OCT was high (r2 = 0.897).
We demonstrated cross sectional visualization of retinal structures in wild type mice and mouse models for retinal degeneration in vivo using a commercially available SD-OCT device. This method will help to reduce numbers of animals needed per study by allowing longitudinal study designs and facilitate characterization of disease dynamics and evaluation of putative therapeutic effects following experimental interventions.
PMCID: PMC2800101  PMID: 19661229
optical coherence tomography; retinal degeneration; imaging; mouse models
12.  The tissue-specific expression of TRPML2 (MCOLN-2) gene is influenced by the presence of TRPML1 
Mucolipidosis type IV is a lysosomal storage disorder caused by the loss or dysfunction of the mucolipin-1 (TRPML1) protein. It has been suggested that TRPML2 could genetically compensate (i.e., become upregulated) for the loss of TRPML1. We thus investigated this possibility by first studying the expression pattern of mouse TRPML2 and its basic channel properties using the varitint-waddler (Va) model. Here, we confirmed the presence of long variant TRPML2 (TRPML2lv) and short variant (TRPML2sv) isoforms. We showed for the first time that, heterologously expressed, TRPML2lv-Va is an active, inwardly rectifying channel. Secondly, we quantitatively measured TRPML2 and TRPML3 mRNA expressions in TRPML1−/− null and wild-type (Wt) mice. In wild-type mice, the TRPML2lv transcripts were very low while TRPML2sv and TRPML3 transcripts have predominant expressions in lymphoid and kidney organs. Significant reductions of TRPML2sv, but not TRPML2lv or TRPML3 transcripts, were observed in lymphoid and kidney organs of TRPML1−/− mice. RNA interference of endogenous human TRPML1 in HEK-293 cells produced a comparable decrease of human TRPML2 transcript levels that can be restored by overexpression of human TRPML1. Conversely, significant upregulation of TRPML2sv transcripts was observed when primary mouse lymphoid cells were treated with nicotinic acid adenine dinucleotide phosphate, or N-(2-[p-bromocinnamylamino]ethyl)-5-isoquinoline sulfon-amide, both known activators of TRPML1. In conclusion, our results indicate that TRPML2 is unlikely to compensate for the loss of TRPML1 in lymphoid or kidney organs and that TRPML1 appears to play a novel role in the tissue-specific transcriptional regulation of TRPML2.
PMCID: PMC2913554  PMID: 19763610
TRP ion channel; TRPML2; Mucolipidosis type IV; Mucolipin-2; Lysosomal storage disorder; TRPML1 knock out mouse
13.  Novel Rodent Models for Macular Research 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(10):e13403.
Many disabling human retinal disorders involve the central retina, particularly the macula. However, the commonly used rodent models in research, mouse and rat, do not possess a macula. The purpose of this study was to identify small laboratory rodents with a significant central region as potential new models for macular research.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Gerbillus perpallidus, Meriones unguiculatus and Phodopus campbelli, laboratory rodents less commonly used in retinal research, were subjected to confocal scanning laser ophthalmoscopy (cSLO), fluorescein and indocyanine green angiography, and spectral-domain optical coherence tomography (SD-OCT) using standard equipment (Heidelberg Engineering HRA1 and Spectralis™) adapted to small rodent eyes. The existence of a visual streak-like pattern was assessed on the basis of vascular topography, retinal thickness, and the topography of retinal ganglion cells and cone photoreceptors. All three species examined showed evidence of a significant horizontal streak-like specialization. cSLO angiography and retinal wholemounts revealed that superficial retinal blood vessels typically ramify and narrow into a sparse capillary net at the border of the respective area located dorsal to the optic nerve. Similar to the macular region, there was an absence of larger blood vessels in the streak region. Furthermore, the thickness of the photoreceptor layer and the population density of neurons in the ganglion cell layer were markedly increased in the visual streak region.
The retinal specializations of Gerbillus perpallidus, Meriones unguiculatus and Phodopus campbelli resemble features of the primate macula. Hence, the rodents reported here may serve to study aspects of macular development and diseases like age-related macular degeneration and diabetic macular edema, and the preclinical assessment of therapeutic strategies.
PMCID: PMC2955520  PMID: 20976212
14.  Constitutive Overexpression of Human Erythropoietin Protects the Mouse Retina against Induced But Not Inherited Retinal Degeneration 
Elevation of erythropoietin (Epo) concentrations by hypoxic preconditioning or application of recombinant human Epo (huEpo) protects the mouse retina against light-induced degeneration by inhibiting photoreceptor cell apoptosis. Because photoreceptor apoptosis is also the common path to cell loss in retinal dystrophies such as retinitis pigmentosa (RP), we tested whether high levels of huEpo would reduce apoptotic cell death in two mouse models of human RP. We combined the two respective mutant mouse lines with a transgenic line (tg6) that constitutively overexpresses huEpo mainly in neural tissues. Transgenic expression of huEpo caused constitutively high levels of Epo in the retina and protected photoreceptors against light-induced degeneration; however, the presence of high levels of huEpo did not affect the course or the extent of retinal degeneration in a light-independent (rd1) and a light-accelerated (VPP) mouse model of RP. Similarly, repetitive intraperitoneal injections of recombinant huEpo did not protect the retina in the rd1 and the VPP mouse. Lack of neuroprotection by Epo in the two models of inherited retinal degeneration was not caused by adaptational downregulation of Epo receptor. Our results suggest that apoptotic mechanisms during acute, light-induced photoreceptor cell death differ from those in genetically based retinal degeneration. Therapeutic intervention with cell death in inherited retinal degeneration may therefore require different drugs and treatments.
PMCID: PMC2929919  PMID: 15215287
retinal degeneration; erythropoietin; apoptosis; neuroprotection; photoreceptor; transgene
15.  Noninvasive, In Vivo Assessment of Mouse Retinal Structure Using Optical Coherence Tomography 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(10):e7507.
Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is a novel method of retinal in vivo imaging. In this study, we assessed the potential of OCT to yield histology-analogue sections in mouse models of retinal degeneration.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We achieved to adapt a commercial 3rd generation OCT system to obtain and quantify high-resolution morphological sections of the mouse retina which so far required in vitro histology. OCT and histology were compared in models with developmental defects, light damage, and inherited retinal degenerations. In conditional knockout mice deficient in retinal retinoblastoma protein Rb, the gradient of Cre expression from center to periphery, leading to a gradual reduction of retinal thickness, was clearly visible and well topographically quantifiable. In Nrl knockout mice, the layer involvement in the formation of rosette-like structures was similarly clear as in histology. OCT examination of focal light damage, well demarcated by the autofluorescence pattern, revealed a practically complete loss of photoreceptors with preservation of inner retinal layers, but also more subtle changes like edema formation. In Crb1 knockout mice (a model for Leber's congenital amaurosis), retinal vessels slipping through the outer nuclear layer towards the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) due to the lack of adhesion in the subapical region of the photoreceptor inner segments could be well identified.
We found that with the OCT we were able to detect and analyze a wide range of mouse retinal pathology, and the results compared well to histological sections. In addition, the technique allows to follow individual animals over time, thereby reducing the numbers of study animals needed, and to assess dynamic processes like edema formation. The results clearly indicate that OCT has the potential to revolutionize the future design of respective short- and long-term studies, as well as the preclinical assessment of therapeutic strategies.
PMCID: PMC2759518  PMID: 19838301
16.  Endogenous leukemia inhibitory factor protects photoreceptor cells against light-induced degeneration 
Molecular Vision  2009;15:1631-1637.
Expression of leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF) by a subset of Müller glia cells has recently been implicated in an endogenous survival response to photoreceptor injury in a model of inherited retinal degeneration. To investigate whether such a LIF-controlled survival pathway might be commonly induced upon photoreceptor injury independently of the nature of the toxic stimulus, we analyzed the role of LIF during light-induced retinal degeneration.
Lif+/– and Lif–/– mice were exposed to 15,000 lx of white light for 2 h. Retinal morphology and rhodopsin content were analyzed nine days after light exposure. Gene expression studies were done using real-time PCR. Protein levels were determined by western blotting using specific antibodies.
A lack of LIF reduced survival of photoreceptor cells after light exposure. In the absence of LIF several genes encoding molecules involved in the Janus kinase/signal transducer and activator of transcription (Jak/STAT) signaling pathway were not activated after light exposure. Presence or absence of LIF did not affect AKT (also known as protein kinase B, PKB) signaling and had only a mild effect on extracellular regulated kinase (ERK) phosphorylation. Stress-induced glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) induction was minimal in the absence of LIF.
Our results suggest that increased retinal expression of LIF is a general response to photoreceptor injury. Independent of the nature of the toxic insult (gene mutation, light), LIF may activate an endogenous rescue pathway that protects viable photoreceptor cells, leading to an increased photoreceptor survival in the stressed retina. This defense system may depend on the Jak/STAT pathway and may involve endothelin 2 (EDN2) but not (or only minimally) AKT and ERK1,2 signaling.
PMCID: PMC2728564  PMID: 19693290
17.  Robust Postmortem Survival of Murine Vestibular and Cochlear Stem Cells 
Potential treatment strategies of neurodegenerative and other diseases with stem cells derived from nonembryonic tissues are much less subjected to ethical criticism than embryonic stem cell-based approaches. Here we report the isolation of inner ear stem cells, which may be useful in cell replacement therapies for hearing loss, after protracted postmortem intervals. We found that neonatal murine inner ear tissues, including vestibular and cochlear sensory epithelia, display remarkably robust cellular survival, even 10 days postmortem. Similarly, isolation of sphere-forming stem cells was possible up to 10 days postmortem. We detected no difference in the proliferation and differentiation potential between stem cells isolated directly after death and up to 5 days postmortem. At longer postmortem intervals, we observed that the potency of sphere-derived cells to spontaneously differentiate into mature cell types diminishes prior to the cells losing their potential for self-renewal. Three-week-old mice also displayed sphere-forming stem cells in all inner ear tissues investigated up to 5 days postmortem. In summary, our results demonstrate that postmortem murine inner ear tissue is suited for isolation of stem cells.
PMCID: PMC2538352  PMID: 17334849
utricle; hair cell; regeneration; spiral ganglion; neurosphere
18.  Differential Distribution of Stem Cells in the Auditory and Vestibular Organs of the Inner Ear 
The adult mammalian cochlea lacks regenerative capacity, which is the main reason for the permanence of hearing loss. Vestibular organs, in contrast, replace a small number of lost hair cells. The reason for this difference is unknown. In this work we show isolation of sphere-forming stem cells from the early postnatal organ of Corti, vestibular sensory epithelia, the spiral ganglion, and the stria vascularis. Organ of Corti and vestibular sensory epithelial stem cells give rise to cells that express multiple hair cell markers and express functional ion channels reminiscent of nascent hair cells. Spiral ganglion stem cells display features of neural stem cells and can give rise to neurons and glial cell types. We found that the ability for sphere formation in the mouse cochlea decreases about 100-fold during the second and third postnatal weeks; this decrease is substantially faster than the reduction of stem cells in vestibular organs, which maintain their stem cell population also at older ages. Coincidentally, the relative expression of developmental and progenitor cell markers in the cochlea decreases during the first 3 postnatal weeks, which is in sharp contrast to the vestibular system, where expression of progenitor cell markers remains constant or even increases during this period. Our findings indicate that the lack of regenerative capacity in the adult mammalian cochlea is either a result of an early postnatal loss of stem cells or diminishment of stem cell features of maturing cochlear cells.
PMCID: PMC2538418  PMID: 17171473
cochlea; utricle; hair cell; regeneration; spiral ganglion; neurosphere
19.  Analysis of the retinal gene expression profile after hypoxic preconditioning identifies candidate genes for neuroprotection 
BMC Genomics  2008;9:73.
Retinal degeneration is a main cause of blindness in humans. Neuroprotective therapies may be used to rescue retinal cells and preserve vision. Hypoxic preconditioning stabilizes the transcription factor HIF-1α in the retina and strongly protects photoreceptors in an animal model of light-induced retinal degeneration. To address the molecular mechanisms of the protection, we analyzed the transcriptome of the hypoxic retina using microarrays and real-time PCR.
Hypoxic exposure induced a marked alteration in the retinal transcriptome with significantly different expression levels of 431 genes immediately after hypoxic exposure. The normal expression profile was restored within 16 hours of reoxygenation. Among the differentially regulated genes, several candidates for neuroprotection were identified like metallothionein-1 and -2, the HIF-1 target gene adrenomedullin and the gene encoding the antioxidative and cytoprotective enzyme paraoxonase 1 which was previously not known to be a hypoxia responsive gene in the retina. The strongly upregulated cyclin dependent kinase inhibitor p21 was excluded from being essential for neuroprotection.
Our data suggest that neuroprotection after hypoxic preconditioning is the result of the differential expression of a multitude of genes which may act in concert to protect visual cells against a toxic insult.
PMCID: PMC2270833  PMID: 18261226
20.  Classical complement activation and acquired immune response pathways are not essential for retinal degeneration in the rd1 mouse 
Experimental eye research  2006;84(1):82-91.
Misregulation of the innate immune response and other immune-related processes have been suggested to play a critical role in the pathogenesis of a number of different neurodegenerative diseases, including age related macular degeneration. In an animal model for photoreceptor degeneration, several genes of the innate and acquired immune system were found to be differentially regulated in the retina during the degenerative process. In addition to this differential regulation of individual genes, we found that in the rd1 retina a significantly higher number of genes involved in immune-related responses were expressed at any given time during the degenerative period. The peak of immune-related gene expression was at postnatal day 14, coinciding with the peak of photoreceptor apoptosis in the rd1 mouse. We directly tested the potential involvement of acquired and innate immune responses in initiation and progression of photoreceptor degeneration by analyzing double mutant animals. Retinal morphology and photoreceptor apoptosis of rd1 mice on a SCID genetic background (no mature T- and B-cells) or in combination with a RAG-1 (no functional B- and T-cells) or a C1qα (no functional classical complement activation pathway) knockout was followed during the degenerative process using light microscopy or TUNEL staining, respectively. Although complement factor C1qα was highly up-regulated in the rd1 retina concomitantly with the degenerative process, lack of this protein did not protect the rd1 retina. Similarly, retinal degeneration and photoreceptor apoptosis appeared to proceed normally in the rd1 mouse lacking functional B- and T-cells. Our results suggest that both, the classical complement system of innate immunity and a functional acquired immune response are not essential for the degenerative process in the rd1 mouse retina.
PMCID: PMC1885545  PMID: 17069800
retinal degeneration; immune response; rd1; SCID; Rag1−/ −; complement system
Biochimica et biophysica acta  2007;1772(8):1022-1027.
In this review, we summarize the potential functional roles of transient receptor potential (TRP) channels in the vertebrate inner ear. The history of TRP channels in hearing and balance is characterized at great length by the hunt for the elusive transduction channel of sensory hair cells. Such pursuit has not resulted in unequivocal identification of the transduction channel, but nevertheless revealed a number of candidates, such as TRPV4, TRPN1, TRPA1, and TRPML3. Much of the circumstantial evidence indicates that these TRP channels potentially play significant roles in inner ear physiology. Based on mutations in the corresponding mouse genes, TRPV4 and TRPML3 are possible candidates for human hearing, and potentially also balance disorders. We further discuss the role of the invertebrate TRP channels Nanchung, Inactive, and TRPN1 and how the functional analysis of these channels provides a link to vertebrate hearing and balance. In summary, only a few TRP channels have been analyzed thus far for a prospective role in the inner ear, and this makes the search for additional TRPs associated with inner ear function quite a tantalizing endeavor.
PMCID: PMC1961624  PMID: 17300924

Results 1-21 (21)