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1.  Donor and host photoreceptors engage in material transfer following transplantation of post-mitotic photoreceptor precursors 
Nature Communications  2016;7:13029.
Photoreceptor replacement by transplantation is proposed as a treatment for blindness. Transplantation of healthy photoreceptor precursor cells into diseased murine eyes leads to the presence of functional photoreceptors within host retinae that express an array of donor-specific proteins. The resulting improvement in visual function was understood to be due to donor cells integrating within host retinae. Here, however, we show that while integration occurs the majority of donor-reporter-labelled cells in the host arises as a result of material transfer between donor and host photoreceptors. Material transfer does not involve permanent donor–host nuclear or cell–cell fusion, or the uptake of free protein or nucleic acid from the extracellular environment. Instead, RNA and/or protein are exchanged between donor and host cells in vivo. These data require a re-evaluation of the mechanisms underlying rescue by photoreceptor transplantation and raise the possibility of material transfer as a strategy for the treatment of retinal disorders.
Transplantation of healthy photoreceptor cells has been shown to rescue blindness. Here, the authors show that rather than donor cells integrating into the host retina, the predominant mechanism underlying this rescue involves exchange of cytoplasmic material between donor and host cells in vivo.
PMCID: PMC5059468  PMID: 27701378
3.  Effective Transplantation of Photoreceptor Precursor Cells Selected Via Cell Surface Antigen Expression 
Stem cells (Dayton, Ohio)  2011;29(9):1391-1404.
Retinal degenerative diseases are a major cause of untreatable blindness. Stem cell therapy to replace lost photoreceptors represents a feasible future treatment. We previously demonstrated that postmitotic photoreceptor precursors expressing an NrlGFP transgene integrate into the diseased retina and restore some light sensitivity. As genetic modification of precursor cells derived from stem cell cultures is not desirable for therapy, we have tested cell selection strategies using fluorochrome-conjugated antibodies recognizing cell surface antigens to sort photoreceptor precursors. Microarray analysis of postnatal NrlGFP-expressing precursors identified four candidate genes encoding cell surface antigens (Nt5e, Prom1, Podxl, and Cd24a). To test the feasibility of using donor cells isolated using cell surface markers for retinal therapy, cells selected from developing retinae by fluorescence-activated cell sorting based on Cd24a expression (using CD24 antibody) and/or Nt5e expression (using CD73 antibody) were transplanted into the wild-type or Crb1rd8/rd8 or Prph2rd2/rd2 mouse eye. The CD73/CD24-sorted cells migrated into the outer nuclear layer, acquired the morphology of mature photoreceptors and expressed outer segment markers. They showed an 18-fold higher integration efficiency than that of unsorted cells and 2.3-fold higher than cells sorted based on a single genetic marker, NrlGFP, expression. These proof-of-principle studies show that transplantation competent photoreceptor precursor cells can be efficiently isolated from a heterogeneous mix of cells using cell surface antigens without loss of viability for the purpose of retinal stem cell therapy. Refinement of the selection of donor photoreceptor precursor cells can increase the number of integrated photoreceptor cells, which is a prerequisite for the restoration of sight.
PMCID: PMC3303132  PMID: 21774040
Retina; Cell transplantation; Cell surface markers; fluorescence-activated cell sorting; Stem cell transplantation; Fluorescent protein reporter genes; Microarray; Embryonic stem cells
4.  Manipulation of the Recipient Retinal Environment by Ectopic Expression of Neurotrophic Growth Factors Can Improve Transplanted Photoreceptor Integration and Survival 
Cell transplantation  2012;21(5):871-887.
Degeneration of the neural retina is the leading cause of untreatable blindness in the developed world. Stem cell replacement therapy offers a novel strategy for retinal repair. Postmitotic photoreceptor precursors derived from the early postnatal (P) retina are able to migrate and integrate into the adult mouse retina following transplantation into the subretinal space, but it is likely that a large number of these cells would be required to restore vision. The adult recipient retina presents a very different environment to that from which photoreceptor precursor donor cells isolated from the developing postnatal retina are derived. Here we considered the possibility that modulation of the recipient environment by ectopic expression of developmentally regulated growth factors, normally present during photoreceptor development, might enhance the migration and integration of transplanted cells into the adult neural retina. Adeno-associated viral (AAV) vectors were used to introduce three growth factors previously reported to play a role in photoreceptor development, IGF1, FGF2, and CNTF, into the adult retina, prior to transplantation of P4 cells derived from the Nrl.GFP+ve neural retina. At 3 weeks posttransplantation the number of integrated, differentiated photoreceptor cells present in AAV-mediated neurotrophic factor-treated eyes was assessed and compared to control treated contralateral eyes. We show, firstly, that it is possible to manipulate the recipient retinal microenvironment via rAAV-mediated gene transfer with respect to these developmentally relevant growth factors. Moreover, when combined with cell transplantation, AAV-mediated expression of IGF1 led to significantly increased levels of cell integration, while overexpression of FGF2 had no significant effect on integrated cell number. Conversely, expression of CNTF led to a significant decrease in cell integration and an exacerbated glial response that led to glial scarring. Together, these findings demonstrate the importance of the extrinsic environment of the recipient retina for photoreceptor cell transplantation and show for the first time that it is possible to manipulate this environment using viral vectors to influence photoreceptor transplantation efficiency.
PMCID: PMC3523316  PMID: 22325046
Photoreceptor; Retina; Transplantation; Neurotrophic factors; Gene therapy; Stem cell
5.  Cell transplantation strategies for retinal repair 
Progress in brain research  2009;175:3-21.
Cell transplantation is a novel therapeutic strategy to restore visual responses to the degenerate adult neural retina and represents an exciting area of regenerative neurotherapy. So far, it has been shown that transplanted postmitotic photoreceptor precursors are able to functionally integrate into the adult mouse neural retina. In this review, we discuss the differentiation of photoreceptor cells from both adult and embryonic-derived stem cells and their potential for retinal cell transplantation. We also discuss the strategies used to overcome barriers present in the degenerate neural retina and improve retinal cell integration. Finally, we consider the future translation of retinal cell therapy as a therapeutic strategy to treat retinal degeneration.
PMCID: PMC3272389  PMID: 19660645
stem cell; progenitor cell; photoreceptor; retina; transplantation; degeneration
6.  Targeted Disruption of Outer Limiting Membrane Junctional Proteins (Crb1 and ZO-1) Increases Integration of Transplanted Photoreceptor Precursors Into the Adult Wild-Type and Degenerating Retina 
Cell transplantation  2010;19(4):487-503.
Diseases culminating in photoreceptor loss are a major cause of untreatable blindness. Transplantation of rod photoreceptors is feasible, provided donor cells are at an appropriate stage of development when transplanted. Nevertheless, the proportion of cells that integrate into the recipient outer nuclear layer (ONL) is low. The outer limiting membrane (OLM), formed by adherens junctions between Müller glia and photoreceptors, may impede transplanted cells from migrating into the recipient ONL. Adaptor proteins such as Crumbs homologue 1 (Crb1) and zona occludins (ZO-1) are essential for localization of the OLM adherens junctions. We investigated whether targeted disruption of these proteins enhances donor cell integration. Transplantation of rod precursors in wild-type mice achieved 949 ± 141 integrated cells. By contrast, integration is significantly higher when rod precursors are transplanted into Crb1rd8/rd8 mice, a model of retinitis pigmentosa and Lebers congenital amaurosis that lacks functional CRB1 protein and displays disruption of the OLM (7,819 ± 1,297; maximum 15,721 cells). We next used small interfering (si)RNA to transiently reduce the expression of ZO-1 and generate a reversible disruption of the OLM. ZO-1 knockdown resulted in similar, significantly improved, integration of transplanted cells in wild-type mice (7,037 ± 1,293; maximum 11,965 cells). Finally, as the OLM remains largely intact in many retinal disorders, we tested whether transient ZO-1 knockdown increased integration in a model of retinitis pigmentosa, the rho−/− mouse; donor cell integration was significantly increased from 313 ± 58 cells without treatment to 919 ± 198 cells after ZO-1 knockdown. This study shows that targeted disruption of OLM junctional proteins enhances integration in the wild-type and degenerating retina and may be a useful approach for developing photoreceptor transplantation strategies.
PMCID: PMC2938729  PMID: 20089206
Stem cell; Migration; Transplantation; Degeneration; Müller glia
7.  Pharmacological disruption of the outer limiting membrane leads to increased retinal integration of transplanted photoreceptor precursors 
Experimental Eye Research  2008;86(4):601-611.
Retinal degeneration is the leading cause of untreatable blindness in the developed world. Cell transplantation strategies provide a novel therapeutic approach to repair the retina and restore sight. Previously, we have shown that photoreceptor precursor cells can integrate and form functional photoreceptors after transplantation into the subretinal space of the adult mouse. In a clinical setting, however, it is likely that far greater numbers of integrated photoreceptors would be required to restore visual function. We therefore sought to assess whether the outer limiting membrane (OLM), a natural barrier between the subretinal space and the outer nuclear layer (ONL), could be reversibly disrupted and if disruption of this barrier could lead to enhanced numbers of transplanted photoreceptors integrating into the ONL. Transient chemical disruption of the OLM was induced in adult mice using the glial toxin, dl-alpha-aminoadipic acid (AAA). Dissociated early post-natal neural retinal cells were transplanted via subretinal injection at various time-points after AAA administration. At 3 weeks post-injection, the number of integrated, differentiated photoreceptor cells was assessed and compared with those found in the PBS-treated contralateral eye. We demonstrate for the first time that the OLM can be reversibly disrupted in adult mice, using a specific dose of AAA administered by intravitreal injection. In this model, OLM disruption is maximal at 72 h, and recovers by 2 weeks. When combined with cell transplantation, disruption of the OLM leads to a significant increase in the number of photoreceptors integrated within the ONL compared with PBS-treated controls. This effect was only seen in animals in which AAA had been administered 72 h prior to transplantation, i.e. when precursor cells were delivered into the subretinal space at a time coincident with maximal OLM disruption. These findings suggest that the OLM presents a physical barrier to photoreceptor integration following transplantation into the subretinal space in the adult mouse. Reversible disruption of the OLM may provide a strategy for increasing cell integration in future therapeutic applications.
PMCID: PMC2394572  PMID: 18294631
retinal transplantation; Müller cell; outer limiting membrane; cell integration; photoreceptor; stem cells; mouse

Results 1-7 (7)