Hereditary retinal dystrophies (RD) constitute a group of blinding diseases that are characterized by clinical variability and pronounced genetic heterogeneity. The different forms of RD can be caused by mutations in >100 genes, including >1600 exons. Consequently, next generation sequencing (NGS) technologies are among the most promising approaches to identify mutations in RD. So far, NGS is not routinely used in gene diagnostics. We developed a diagnostic NGS pipeline to identify mutations in 170 genetically and clinically unselected RD patients. NGS was applied to 105 RD-associated genes. Underrepresented regions were examined by Sanger sequencing. The NGS approach was successfully established using cases with known sequence alterations. Depending on the initial clinical diagnosis, we identified likely causative mutations in 55% of retinitis pigmentosa and 80% of Bardet–Biedl or Usher syndrome cases. Seventy-one novel mutations in 40 genes were newly associated with RD. The genes USH2A, EYS, ABCA4, and RHO were more frequently affected than others. Occasionally, cases carried mutations in more than one RD-associated gene. In addition, we found possible dominant de-novo mutations in cases with sporadic RD, which implies consequences for counseling of patients and families. NGS-based mutation analyses are reliable and cost-efficient approaches in gene diagnostics of genetically heterogeneous diseases like RD.
next generation sequencing; hereditary retinal dystrophy; gene diagnostics; genetic modifiers; de-novo mutations
Cell death in neurodegenerative diseases is often thought to be governed by apoptosis; however, an increasing body of evidence suggests the involvement of alternative cell death mechanisms in neuronal degeneration. We studied retinal neurodegeneration using 10 different animal models, covering all major groups of hereditary human blindness (rd1, rd2, rd10, Cngb1 KO, Rho KO, S334ter, P23H, Cnga3 KO, cpfl1, Rpe65 KO), by investigating metabolic processes relevant for different forms of cell death. We show that apoptosis plays only a minor role in the inherited forms of retinal neurodegeneration studied, where instead, a non-apoptotic degenerative mechanism common to all mutants is of major importance. Hallmark features of this pathway are activation of histone deacetylase, poly-ADP-ribose-polymerase, and calpain, as well as accumulation of cyclic guanosine monophosphate and poly-ADP-ribose. Our work thus demonstrates the prevalence of alternative cell death mechanisms in inherited retinal degeneration and provides a rational basis for the design of mutation-independent treatments.
This study aimed to quantify the pupillary light reaction during high altitude exposure using the state of the art Compact Integrated Pupillograph (CIP) and to investigate a potential correlation of altered pupil reaction with severity of acute mountain sickness (AMS). This work is related to the Tübingen High Altitude Ophthalmology (THAO) study.
Parameters of pupil dynamics (initial diameter, amplitude, relative amplitude, latency, constriction velocity) were quantified in 14 healthy volunteers at baseline (341 m) and high altitude (4559 m) over several days using the CIP. Scores of AMS, peripheral oxygen saturation and heart rate were assessed for respective correlations with pupil dynamics. For statistical analysis JMP was used and data are shown in terms of intra-individual normalized values (value during exposure/value at baseline) and the 95% confidence interval for each time point.
During high altitude exposure the initial diameter size was significantly reduced (p<0.05). In contrast, the amplitude, the relative amplitude and the contraction velocity of the light reaction were significantly increased (p<0.05) on all days measured at high altitude. The latency did not show any significant differences at high altitude compared to baseline recordings. Changes in pupil parameters did not correlate with scores of AMS.
Key parameters of the pupillary light reaction are significantly altered at high altitude. We hypothesize that high altitude hypoxia itself as well as known side effects of high altitude exposure such as fatigue or exhaustion after ascent may account for an altered pupillogram. Interestingly, none of these changes are related to AMS.
During neuronal degenerative diseases, neuronal microcircuits undergo severe structural alterations, leading to remodeling of synaptic connectivity. The functional consequences of such remodeling are mostly unknown. For instance, in mutant rd1 mouse retina, a common model for Retinitis Pigmentosa, rod bipolar cells (RBCs) establish contacts with remnant cone photoreceptors (cones) as a consequence of rod photoreceptor cell death and the resulting lack of presynaptic input. To assess the functional connectivity in the remodeled, light-insensitive outer rd1 retina, we recorded spontaneous population activity in retinal wholemounts using Ca2+ imaging and identified the participating cell types. Focusing on cones, RBCs and horizontal cells (HCs), we found that these cell types display spontaneous oscillatory activity and form synchronously active clusters. Overall activity was modulated by GABAergic inhibition from interneurons such as HCs and/or possibly interplexiform cells. Many of the activity clusters comprised both cones and RBCs. Opposite to what is expected from the intact (wild-type) cone-ON bipolar cell pathway, cone and RBC activity was positively correlated and, at least partially, mediated by glutamate transporters expressed on RBCs. Deletion of gap junctional coupling between cones reduced the number of clusters, indicating that electrical cone coupling plays a crucial role for generating the observed synchronized oscillations. In conclusion, degeneration-induced synaptic remodeling of the rd1 retina results in a complex self-sustained outer retinal oscillatory network, that complements (and potentially modulates) the recently described inner retinal oscillatory network consisting of amacrine, bipolar and ganglion cells.
degeneration; synapse remodeling; photopsia; retina; glutamate transporter
This study aims at substituting the essential functions of photoreceptors in patients who are blind owing to untreatable forms of hereditary retinal degenerations. A microelectronic neuroprosthetic device, powered via transdermal inductive transmission, carrying 1500 independent microphotodiode-amplifier-electrode elements on a 9 mm2 chip, was subretinally implanted in nine blind patients. Light perception (8/9), light localization (7/9), motion detection (5/9, angular speed up to 35 deg s−1), grating acuity measurement (6/9, up to 3.3 cycles per degree) and visual acuity measurement with Landolt C-rings (2/9) up to Snellen visual acuity of 20/546 (corresponding to decimal 0.037 or corresponding to 1.43 logMAR (minimum angle of resolution)) were restored via the subretinal implant. Additionally, the identification, localization and discrimination of objects improved significantly (n = 8; p < 0.05 for each subtest) in repeated tests over a nine-month period. Three subjects were able to read letters spontaneously and one subject was able to read letters after training in an alternative-force choice test. Five subjects reported implant-mediated visual perceptions in daily life within a field of 15° of visual angle. Control tests were performed each time with the implant's power source switched off. These data show that subretinal implants can restore visual functions that are useful for daily life.
artificial vision; neuroprosthetics; retinitis pigmentosa; electronic implants
Trace elements might play a role in the complex multifactorial pathogenesis of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The aim of this study was to measure alterations of trace elements levels in aqueous humor of patients with non-exsudative (dry) AMD.
For this pilot study, aqueous humor samples were collected from patients undergoing cataract surgery. 12 patients with dry AMD (age 77.9±6.62, female 8, male 4) and 11 patients without AMD (age 66.6±16.7, female 7, male 4) were included. Aqueous levels of cadmium, cobalt, copper, iron, manganese, selenium, and zinc were measured by use of Flow-Injection-Inductively-Coupled-Plasma-Mass-Spectrometry (FI-ICP-MS), quality controlled with certified standards.
Patients with AMD had significantly higher aqueous humor levels of cadmium (median: 0.70 µmol/L, IQR: 0.40–0.84 vs. 0.06 µmol/L; IQR: 0.01–.018; p = 0.002), cobalt (median: 3.1 µmol/L, IQR: 2.62–3.15 vs. 1.17 µmol/L; IQR: 0.95–1.27; p<0.001), iron (median: 311 µmol/L, IQR: 289–329 vs. 129 µmol/L; IQR: 111–145; p<0.001) and zinc (median: 23.1 µmol/L, IQR: 12.9–32.6 vs. 5.1 µmol/L; IQR: 4.4–9.4; p = 0.020) when compared with patients without AMD. Copper levels were significantly reduced in patients with AMD (median: 16.2 µmol/L, IQR: 11.4–31.3 vs. 49.9 µmol/L; IQR: 32.0–.142.0; p = 0.022) when compared to those without. No significant differences were observed in aqueous humor levels of manganese and selenium between patients with and without AMD. After an adjustment for multiple testing, cadmium, cobalt, copper and iron remained a significant factor in GLM models (adjusted for age and gender of the patients) for AMD.
Alterations of trace element levels support the hypothesis that cadmium, cobalt, iron, and copper are involved in the pathogenesis of AMD.
The purpose of this study was to investigate the safety and efficacy of transcorneal electrical stimulation (TES) in patients suffering from retinal artery occlusion (RAO).
Twelve patients with central and one patient with branch RAO (age 25–84 years, median 74 years) were enrolled in this prospective, randomized, sham-controlled study. RAO was diagnosed 10 days to 17 months prior to study participation. Patients were treated with TES (5 ms positive followed by 5 ms negative biphasic pulses at 20 Hz; applied with DTL electrodes) for 30 min once a week for 6 consecutive weeks. Patients were randomly assigned to TES with 0 mA (sham, n = 3), 66% (n = 5) or 150% (n = 5) of the patient’s individual electrical phosphene threshold (EPT) at 20 Hz. Best corrected visual acuity, ophthalmology examination and EPT (at 3, 6, 9, 20, 40, 60, and 80 Hz) were determined at baseline and at eight follow-up visits over 17 weeks. During four visits (week 1, 5, 9, and 17) kinetic and static visual fields as well as full-field and multifocal electroretinography were measured. The method of restricted maximum likelihood (P < 0.05, Tukey–Kramer) was used to estimate the development of parameters under treatment.
TES was tolerated well; no ocular or systemic adverse events were observed except for foreign-body sensation after TES (n = 3). During the study period the slopes of the scotopic a-wave increased significantly (high-intensity flash white 10 cd.s/m2; P = 0.03) in the 150% treatment group. All other parameters in all other groups remained statistically unchanged.
Although TES was tolerated well, statistically significant improvements were found only for specific a-wave slopes. This is in contradiction to previous smaller, uncontrolled reports. Further studies with larger sample sizes and longer duration might, however, show additional significant effects.
Electrophysiology; Growth factors; Neurotrophic factors; Ophthalmology; Retinal artery occlusion; Transcorneal electrical stimulation
To investigate rod and cone function and disease mechanisms in patients with KCNV2 retinopathy.
Psychophysical examinations as well as detailed electrophysiological examinations with Ganzfeld and multifocal electroretinogram (ERG) were performed to study response dynamics. Additionally, fundus photography, autofluorescence imaging and spectral domain OCTs were carried out for morphological characterization. Molecular genetic analysis revealed compound heterozygosity in five patients and homozygosity for the KCNV2 gene in one patient. The mutations resulted in complete absence of Kv8.2 subunits in three patients (no protein group, NOP), while the other three patients expressed mutant Kv8.2 subunits resulting in altered Kv2.1/Kv8.2 heteromeric or residual Kv2.1 homomeric potassium channel function (altered protein group, ALP). Although more advanced morphological changes were visible in the NOP group, a clear functional difference between the two groups could not be observed. All patients showed characteristic dynamics of the b-wave intensity-response function, however, scotopic b-wave response amplitudes were within normal limits. We also observed severely reduced oscillatory potentials.
A specific genotype-phenotype correlation in retinal function could not be demonstrated. KCNV2 mutations cause a unique form of retinal disorder illustrating the importance of K+-channels for the resting potential, activation and deactivation of photoreceptors, while phototransduction remains unchanged. The reduced oscillatory potentials further suggest an altered function of the inner retina. Besides the characteristically steep amplitude-versus-intensity relationship, flicker responses at intermediate frequencies (5–15 Hz) are significantly reduced and shifted in phase.
This study aimed to quantify structural and functional changes at the macula during acute exposure to high altitude and to assess their structure/function relationship. This work is related to the Tuebingen High Altitude Ophthalmology (THAO) study.
Spectral domain optical coherence tomography and microperimetry were used to quantify changes of central retinal structure and function in 14 healthy subjects during acute exposure to high altitude (4559 m). High-resolution volume scans and fundus-controlled microperimetry of the posterior pole were performed in addition to best-corrected visual acuity (BCVA) measurements and assessment of acute mountain sickness. Analysis of measurements at altitude vs. baseline revealed increased total retinal thickness (TRT) in all four outer ETDRS grid subfields during acute altitude exposure (TRTouter = 2.80±1.00 μm; mean change±95%CI). This change was inverted towards the inner four subfields (TRTinner = −1.89±0.97 μm) with significant reduction of TRT in the fovea (TRTfoveal = −6.62±0.90 μm) at altitude. BCVA revealed no significant difference compared to baseline (0.06±0.08 logMAR). Microperimetry showed stable mean sensitivity in all but the foveal subfield (MSfoveal = −1.12±0.68 dB). At baseline recordings before and >2 weeks after high altitude exposure, all subjects showed equal levels with no sign of persisting structural or functional sequels.
During acute exposure to high altitude central retinal thickness is subject to minor, yet statistically significant changes. These alterations describe a function of eccentricity with an increase in regions with relatively higher retinal nerve fiber content and vascular arcades. However, these changes did not correlate with measures of central retinal function or acute mountain sickness. For the first time a quantitative approach has been used to assess these changes during acute, non-acclimatized high altitude exposure.
To explore the effect of ketamine-xylazine anesthesia on light-induced retinal degeneration in rats.
Rats were anesthetized with ketamine and xylazine (100 and 5 mg, respectively) for 1 h, followed by a recovery phase of 2 h before exposure to 16,000 lux of environmental illumination for 2 h. Functional assessment by electroretinography (ERG) and morphological assessment by in vivo imaging (optical coherence tomography), histology (hematoxylin/eosin staining, TUNEL assay) and immunohistochemistry (GFAP and rhodopsin staining) were performed at baseline (ERG), 36 h, 7 d and 14 d post-treatment. Non-anesthetized animals treated with light damage served as controls.
Ketamine-xylazine pre-treatment preserved retinal function and protected against light-induced retinal degeneration. In vivo retinal imaging demonstrated a significant increase of outer nuclear layer (ONL) thickness in the non-anesthetized group at 36 h (p<0.01) and significant reduction one week (p<0.01) after light damage. In contrast, ketamine-xylazine pre-treated animals showed no significant alteration of total retinal or ONL thickness at either time point (p>0.05), indicating a stabilizing and/or protective effect with regard to phototoxicity. Histology confirmed light-induced photoreceptor cell death and Müller cells gliosis in non-anesthetized rats, especially in the superior hemiretina, while ketamine-xylazine treated rats showed reduced photoreceptor cell death (TUNEL staining: p<0.001 after 7 d), thicker ONL and longer IS/OS. Fourteen days after light damage, a reduction of standard flash induced a-wave amplitudes and a-wave slopes (p = 0.01) and significant alterations in parameters of the scotopic sensitivity function (e.g. Vmax of the Naka Rushton fit p = 0.03) were observed in non-treated vs. ketamine-xylazine treated animals.
Our results suggest that pre-treatment with ketamine-xylazine anesthesia protects retinas against light damage, reducing photoreceptor cell death. These data support the notion that anesthesia with ketamine-xylazine provides neuroprotective effects in light-induced cell damage.
Mutations in the gene encoding the catalytic subunit of the cone photoreceptor phosphodiesterase (PDE6C) have been recently reported in patients with autosomal recessive inherited achromatopsia (ACHM) and early-onset cone photoreceptor dysfunction. Here we present the results of a comprehensive study on PDE6C mutations including the mutation spectrum, its prevalence in a large cohort of ACHM/cone dysfunction patients, the clinical phenotype and the functional characterization of mutant PDE6C proteins. Twelve affected patients from seven independent families segregating PDE6C mutations were identified in our total patient cohort of 492 independent families. Eleven different PDE6C mutations were found including two nonsense mutations, three mutations affecting transcript splicing as shown by minigene assays, one 1 bp-insertion and five missense mutations. We also performed a detailed functional characterization of six missense mutations applying the baculovirus system to express recombinant mutant and wildtype chimeric PDE6C/PDE5 proteins in Sf9 insect cells. Purified proteins were analyzed using Western blotting, phosphodiesterase (PDE) activity measurements as well as inhibition assays by zaprinast and Pγ. Four of the six PDE6C missense mutations led to baseline PDE activities and most likely represent functional null alleles. For two mutations, p.E790K and p.Y323N, we observed reduction in PDE activity of approximately 60% and 80%, respectively. We also observed differences for Pγ inhibition. The p.E790K mutant, with an IC50 value of 2.7 nm is 20.7-fold more sensitive for Pγ inhibition, whereas the p.Y323N mutant with an IC50 of 158 nm is 3-fold less sensitive when compared with the wildtype control.
The study aim was to analyze the electrophysiological signs of inherited retinal dystrophies (IRD). Full-field and multifocal (mf) electroretinography (ERG) was analysed in three groups: 21 normal subjects, 21 randomly selected IRD patients, and 21 patients randomly selected from each of eleven IRD groups. As a result, median, 5-95 and 25-75 interquantile intervals of each full-field and mfERG parameter were estimated for each of the above mentioned groups and compared using a Kruskal-Wallis test. Quantitative and qualitative criteria defined in this study will improve the precision of differential diagnosis, the detection of IRD severity, and the efficacy of treatment. The quantitative and qualitative characteristics of ERG values, established in this study, can be further applied to the creation of software that will allow the automatic classification of the recording into a specific disease and degree of severity.
Electrophysiological signs; early differential diagnosis; visual system; inherited retinal dystrophies.
The study aimed to quantify changes of the optic nerve head (ONH) during exposure to high altitude and to assess a correlation with acute mountain sickness (AMS). This work is related to the Tuebingen High Altitude Ophthalmology (THAO) study.
A confocal scanning laser ophthalmoscope (cSLO, Heidelberg Retina Tomograph, HRT3®) was used to quantify changes at the ONH in 18 healthy participants before, during and after rapid ascent to high altitude (4559 m). Slitlamp biomicroscopy was used for clinical optic disc evaluation; AMS was assessed with Lake Louise (LL) and AMS-cerebral (AMS-c) scores; oxygen saturation (SpO2) and heart rate (HR) were monitored. These parameters were used to correlate with changes at the ONH. After the first night spent at high altitude, incidence of AMS was 55% and presence of clinical optic disc edema (ODE) 79%. Key stereometric parameters of the HRT3® used to describe ODE (mean retinal nerve fiber layer [RNFL] thickness, RNFL cross sectional area, optic disc rim volume and maximum contour elevation) changed significantly at high altitude compared to baseline (p<0.05) and were consistent with clinically described ODE. All changes were reversible in all participants after descent. There was no significant correlation between parameters of ODE and AMS, SpO2 or HR.
Exposure to high altitude leads to reversible ODE in the majority of healthy subjects. However, these changes did not correlate with AMS or basic physiologic parameters such as SpO2 and HR. For the first time, a quantitative approach has been used to assess these changes during acute, non-acclimatized high altitude exposure. In conclusion, ODE presents a reaction of the body to high altitude exposure unrelated to AMS.
Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is a heterogeneous group of inherited neurodegenerative diseases affecting photoreceptors and causing blindness. Many human cases are caused by mutations in the rhodopsin gene. An important question regarding RP pathology is whether different genetic defects trigger the same or different cell death mechanisms. To answer this question, we analysed photoreceptor degeneration in P23H and S334ter transgenic rats carrying rhodopsin mutations that affect protein folding and sorting respectively. We found strong activation of calpain and poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) in both mutants, concomitant with calpastatin down-regulation, increased oxidative DNA damage and accumulation of PAR polymers. These parameters were strictly correlated with the temporal progression of photoreceptor degeneration, mirroring earlier findings in the phosphodiesterase-6 mutant rd1 mouse, and suggesting execution of non-apoptotic cell death mechanisms. Interestingly, activation of caspases-3 and -9 and cytochrome c leakage—key events in apoptotic cell death—were observed only in the S334ter mutant, which also showed increased expression of PARP-1. The identification of the same metabolic markers triggered by different mutations in two different species suggests the existence of common cell death mechanisms, which is a major consideration for any mutation independent treatment.
Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is a group of inherited neurodegenerative diseases affecting photoreceptors and causing blindness in humans. Previously, excessive activation of enzymes belonging to the poly-ADP-ribose polymerase (PARP) group was shown to be involved in photoreceptor degeneration in the human homologous rd1 mouse model for RP. Since there are at least 16 different PARP isoforms, we investigated the exact relevance of the predominant isoform - PARP1 - for photoreceptor cell death using PARP1 knock-out (KO) mice. In vivo and ex vivo morphological analysis using optic coherence tomography (OCT) and conventional histology revealed no major alterations of retinal phenotype when compared to wild-type (wt). Likewise, retinal function as assessed by electroretinography (ERG) was normal in PARP1 KO animals. We then used retinal explant cultures derived from wt, rd1, and PARP1 KO animals to test their susceptibility to chemically induced photoreceptor degeneration. Since photoreceptor degeneration in the rd1 retina is triggered by a loss-of-function in phosphodiesterase-6 (PDE6), we used selective PDE6 inhibition to emulate the rd1 situation on non-rd1 genotypes. While wt retina subjected to PDE6 inhibition showed massive photoreceptor degeneration comparable to rd1 retina, in the PARP1 KO situation, cell death was robustly reduced. Together, these findings demonstrate that PARP1 activity is in principle dispensable for normal retinal function, but is of major importance for photoreceptor degeneration under pathological conditions. Moreover, our results suggest that PARP dependent cell death or PARthanatos may play a major role in retinal degeneration and highlight the possibility to use specific PARP inhibitors for the treatment of RP.
A light-sensitive, externally powered microchip was surgically implanted subretinally near the macular region of volunteers blind from hereditary retinal dystrophy. The implant contains an array of 1500 active microphotodiodes (‘chip’), each with its own amplifier and local stimulation electrode. At the implant's tip, another array of 16 wire-connected electrodes allows light-independent direct stimulation and testing of the neuron–electrode interface. Visual scenes are projected naturally through the eye's lens onto the chip under the transparent retina. The chip generates a corresponding pattern of 38 × 40 pixels, each releasing light-intensity-dependent electric stimulation pulses. Subsequently, three previously blind persons could locate bright objects on a dark table, two of whom could discern grating patterns. One of these patients was able to correctly describe and name objects like a fork or knife on a table, geometric patterns, different kinds of fruit and discern shades of grey with only 15 per cent contrast. Without a training period, the regained visual functions enabled him to localize and approach persons in a room freely and to read large letters as complete words after several years of blindness. These results demonstrate for the first time that subretinal micro-electrode arrays with 1500 photodiodes can create detailed meaningful visual perception in previously blind individuals.
subretinal neuro-prosthetics; retinal implant; retinitis pigmentosa; blindness; artificial vision; bionic vision
Up to the 1950s, there was an ongoing debate about the diversity of hereditary optic neuropathies, in particular as to whether all inherited optic atrophies can be ascribed to Leber's hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON) or represent different disease entities. In 1954 W. Jaeger published a detailed clinical and genealogical investigation of a large family with explicit autosomal dominant segregation of optic atrophy thus proving the existence of a discrete disease different from LHON, which is nowadays known as autosomal dominant optic atrophy (ADOA). Since the year 2000 ADOA is associated with genomic mutations in the OPA1 gene, which codes for a protein that is imported into mitochondria where it is required for mitochondrial fusion. Interestingly enough, the underlying mutation in this family has not been identified since then.
We have reinvestigated this family with the aim to identify the mutation and to further clarify the underlying pathomechanism. Patients showed a classical non-syndromic ADOA. The long term deterioration in vision in the two teenagers examined 50 years later is of particular note 5/20 to 6/120. Multiplex ligation probe amplification revealed a duplication of the OPA1 exons 7-9 which was confirmed by long distance PCR and cDNA analysis, resulting in an in-frame duplication of 102 amino acids. Segregation was verified in 53 available members of the updated pedigree and a penetrance of 88% was calculated. Fibroblast cultures from skin biopsies were established to assess the mitochondrial network integrity and to qualitatively and quantitatively study the consequences of the mutation on transcript and protein level. Fibroblast cultures demonstrated a fragmented mitochondrial network. Processing of the OPA1 protein was altered. There was no correlation of the OPA1 transcript levels and the OPA1 protein levels in the fibroblasts. Intriguingly an overall decrease of mitochondrial proteins was observed in patients' fibroblasts, while the OPA1 transcript levels were elevated.
The thorough study of this family provides a detailed clinical picture accompanied by a molecular investigation of patients' fibroblasts. Our data show a classic OPA1-associated non-syndromic ADOA segregating in this family. Cell biological findings suggest that OPA1 is regulated by post-translational mechanisms and we would like to hypothesize that loss of OPA1 function might lead to impaired mitochondrial quality control. With the clinical, genetic and cell biological characterisation of a family described already more than 50 years ago, we span more than half a century of research in optic neuropathies.
This study investigated the effects of systemically administered lithium acetoacetate (ACA) and sodium β-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) in a rat model of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA)-induced damage of retinal ganglion cells (RGC). Additionally, the influence of ACA and BHB on kynurenic acid (KYNA) production was assessed in vitro in bovine retinal slices.
Female adult Brown–Norway rats in groups of 5–8 animals were used. ACA and BHB were administered intraperitoneally once a day for 21 consecutive days, and phosphate buffered saline (PBS) was administered to control animals. After 2 weeks, the animals received intraocular NMDA (2 μl of a 10 mM solution in PBS) or intraocular PBS as a control. On day 19, retinal ganglion cells were labeled retrogradely with hydroxystilbamidine. Two days later, RGC density (cells per mm2) was assessed on retinal flatmounts. Additionaly, bovine retinal slices were incubated with NMDA and ACA or BHB at concentrations of 1.0 mM and 3.0 mM, and de novo KYNA production was measured using HPLC.
Intraperitoneal ACA (250 mg/kg) or BHB (291.2 mg/kg) significantly protected RGC against NMDA-induced neurodegeneration. De novo KYNA production in bovine retinal slices was lowered by NMDA. Both ACA and BHB at a concentration of 3.0 mM significantly reduced the effects of NMDA.
ACA and BHB had a significant dose-dependent neuroprotective effect on RGC in a rat model of NMDA-induced RGC damage. Both ketone bodies also significantly attenuated NMDA-induced reduction of retinal KYNA production in vitro, suggesting that this mechanism may be essential for the neuroprotective effects of ACA and BHB in vivo. Our results imply that ketone bodies may represent an additional treatment option in chronic neurodegenerative disorders of the eye.
β-hydroxybutyrate; Acetoacetate; Retinal ganglion cells; Kynurenic acid; Neuroprotection
Usher syndrome is a genetically heterogeneous recessive disease characterized by hearing loss and retinitis pigmentosa (RP). It frequently presents with unexplained, often intrafamilial, variability of the visual phenotype. Although 9 genes have been linked with Usher syndrome, many patients do not have mutations in any of these genes, suggesting that there are still unidentified genes involved in the syndrome. Here, we have determined that mutations in PDZ domain–containing 7 (PDZD7), which encodes a homolog of proteins mutated in Usher syndrome subtype 1C (USH1C) and USH2D, contribute to Usher syndrome. Mutations in PDZD7 were identified only in patients with mutations in other known Usher genes. In a set of sisters, each with a homozygous mutation in USH2A, a frame-shift mutation in PDZD7 was present in the sister with more severe RP and earlier disease onset. Further, heterozygous PDZD7 mutations were present in patients with truncating mutations in USH2A, G protein–coupled receptor 98 (GPR98; also known as USH2C), and an unidentified locus. We validated the human genotypes using zebrafish, and our findings were consistent with digenic inheritance of PDZD7 and GPR98, and with PDZD7 as a retinal disease modifier in patients with USH2A. Pdzd7 knockdown produced an Usher-like phenotype in zebrafish, exacerbated retinal cell death in combination with ush2a or gpr98, and reduced Gpr98 localization in the region of the photoreceptor connecting cilium. Our data challenge the view of Usher syndrome as a traditional Mendelian disorder and support the reclassification of Usher syndrome as an oligogenic disease.
The ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters constitute a family of large membrane proteins which transport a variety of substrates across membranes. The ABCA4 protein is expressed in photoreceptors and possibly functions as a transporter for N-retinylidene-phosphatidylethanolamine (N-retinylidene-PE), the Schiff base adduct of all-trans-retinal with PE. Mutations in the ABCA4 gene have been initially associated with autosomal recessive Stargardt disease. Subsequent studies have shown that mutations in ABCA4 can also cause a variety of other retinal dystrophies including cone rod dystrophy and retinitis pigmentosa. To determine the prevalence and mutation spectrum of ABCA4 gene mutations in non-Stargardt phenotypes we have screened 64 unrelated patients with autosomal recessive cone (arCD) and cone rod dystrophy (arCRD) applying the Asper Ophthalmics ABCR400 microarray followed by DNA sequencing of all coding exons of the ABCA4 gene in subjects with single heterozygous mutations.
Disease-associated ABCA4 alleles were identified in 20 of 64 patients with arCD or arCRD. In four of 64 patients (6%) only one mutant ABCA4 allele was detected and in 16 patients (25%), mutations on both ABCA4 alleles were identified. Based on these data we estimate a prevalence of 31% for ABCA4 mutations in arCD and arCRD, supporting the concept that the ABCA4 gene is a major locus for various types of degenerative retinal diseases with abnormalities in cone or both cone and rod function.