Neurodegeneration is a central aspect of the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, the primary ocular complication associated with diabetes. While progress has been made to improve the vascular perturbations associated with diabetic retinopathy, there are still no treatment options to counteract the neuroretinal degeneration associated with diabetes. Our previous work suggested that the molecular chaperones α-crystallins could be involved in the pathophysiology of diabetic retinopathy; however, the role and regulation of α-crystallins remained unknown. In the present study, we demonstrated the neuroprotective role of αA-crystallin during diabetes and its regulation by its phosphorylation on residue 148. We further characterized the dual role of αA-crystallin in neurons and glia, its essential role for neuronal survival, and its direct dependence on phosphorylation on this residue. These findings support further evaluation of αA-crystallin as a treatment option to promote neuron survival in diabetic retinopathy and neurodegenerative diseases in general.
Anne Ruebsam, Jennifer E. Dulle, Angela M. Myers, Dhananjay Sakrikar, Katelyn M. Green, Naheed W. Khan, Kevin Schey, Patrice E. Fort
Intraocular injection of adeno-associated viral (AAV) vectors has been an evident route for delivering gene drugs into the retina. However, gaps in our understanding of AAV transduction patterns within the anatomically unique environments of the subretinal and intravitreal space of the primate eye impeded the establishment of noninvasive and efficient gene delivery to foveal cones in the clinic. Here, we establish new vector-promoter combinations to overcome the limitations associated with AAV-mediated cone transduction in the fovea with supporting studies in mouse models, human induced pluripotent stem cell–derived organoids, postmortem human retinal explants, and living macaques. We show that an AAV9 variant provides efficient foveal cone transduction when injected into the subretinal space several millimeters away from the fovea, without detaching this delicate region. An engineered AAV2 variant provides gene delivery to foveal cones with a well-tolerated dose administered intravitreally. Both delivery modalities rely on a cone-specific promoter and result in high-level transgene expression compatible with optogenetic vision restoration. The model systems described here provide insight into the behavior of AAV vectors across species to obtain safety and efficacy needed for gene therapy in neurodegenerative disorders.
Hanen Khabou, Marcela Garita-Hernandez, Antoine Chaffiol, Sacha Reichman, Céline Jaillard, Elena Brazhnikova, Stéphane Bertin, Valérie Forster, Mélissa Desrosiers, Céline Winckler, Olivier Goureau, Serge Picaud, Jens Duebel, José-Alain Sahel, Deniz Dalkara
Membrane lipid composition is central to the highly specialized functions of neurological tissues. In the retina, abnormal lipid metabolism causes severe forms of blindness, often through poorly understood neuronal cell death. Here, we demonstrate that deleting the de novo lipogenic enzyme fatty acid synthase (FAS) from the neural retina, but not the vascular retina, results in progressive neurodegeneration and blindness with a temporal pattern resembling rodent models of retinitis pigmentosa. Blindness was not rescued by protection from light-evoked activity; by eating a diet enriched in palmitate, the product of the FAS reaction; or by treatment with the PPARα agonist fenofibrate. Vision loss was due to aberrant synaptic structure, blunted responsiveness to glial-derived neurotrophic factor and ciliary neurotrophic factor, and eventual apoptotic cell loss. This progressive neurodegeneration was associated with decreased membrane cholesterol content, as well as loss of discrete n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid– and saturated fatty acid–containing phospholipid species within specialized membrane microdomains. Neurotrophic signaling was restored by exogenous cholesterol delivery. These findings implicate de novo lipogenesis in neurotrophin-dependent cell survival by maintaining retinal membrane configuration and lipid composition, and they suggest that ongoing lipogenesis may be required to prevent cell death in many forms of retinopathy.
Rithwick Rajagopal, Sheng Zhang, Xiaochao Wei, Teresa Doggett, Sangeeta Adak, Jennifer Enright, Vaishali Shah, Guoyu Ling, Shiming Chen, Jun Yoshino, Fong-Fu Hsu, Clay F. Semenkovich
The genome-wide activity of transcription factors (TFs) on multiple regulatory elements precludes their use as gene-specific regulators. Here we show that ectopic expression of a TF in a cell-specific context can be used to silence the expression of a specific gene as a therapeutic approach to regulate gene expression in human disease. We selected the TF Krüppel-like factor 15 (KLF15) based on its putative ability to recognize a specific DNA sequence motif present in the rhodopsin (RHO) promoter and its lack of expression in terminally differentiated rod photoreceptors (the RHO-expressing cells). Adeno-associated virus (AAV) vector–mediated ectopic expression of KLF15 in rod photoreceptors of pigs enables Rho silencing with limited genome-wide transcriptional perturbations. Suppression of a RHO mutant allele by KLF15 corrects the phenotype of a mouse model of retinitis pigmentosa with no observed toxicity. Cell-specific-context conditioning of TF activity may prove a novel mode for somatic gene–targeted manipulation.
Salvatore Botta, Nicola de Prisco, Elena Marrocco, Mario Renda, Martina Sofia, Fabiola Curion, Maria Laura Bacci, Domenico Ventrella, Cathal Wilson, Carlo Gesualdo, Settimio Rossi, Francesca Simonelli, Enrico Maria Surace
Oxygen-induced retinopathy (OIR) is a widely used model to study ischemia-driven neovascularization (NV) in the retina and to serve in proof-of-concept studies in evaluating antiangiogenic drugs for ocular, as well as nonocular, diseases. The primary parameters that are analyzed in this mouse model include the percentage of retina with vaso-obliteration (VO) and NV areas. However, quantification of these two key variables comes with a great challenge due to the requirement of human experts to read the images. Human readers are costly, time-consuming, and subject to bias. Using recent advances in machine learning and computer vision, we trained deep learning neural networks using over a thousand segmentations to fully automate segmentation in OIR images. While determining the percentage area of VO, our algorithm achieved a similar range of correlation coefficients to that of expert inter-human correlation coefficients. In addition, our algorithm achieved a higher range of correlation coefficients compared with inter-expert correlation coefficients for quantification of the percentage area of neovascular tufts. In summary, we have created an open-source, fully automated pipeline for the quantification of key values of OIR images using deep learning neural networks.
Sa Xiao, Felicitas Bucher, Yue Wu, Ariel Rokem, Cecilia S. Lee, Kyle V. Marra, Regis Fallon, Sophia Diaz-Aguilar, Edith Aguilar, Martin Friedlander, Aaron Y. Lee
BACKGROUND. In patients with limited response to conventional therapeutics, repositioning of already approved drugs can bring new, more effective options. Current drug repositioning methods, however, frequently rely on retrospective computational analyses and genetic testing — time consuming methods that delay application of repositioned drugs. Here, we show how proteomic analysis of liquid biopsies successfully guided treatment of neovascular inflammatory vitreoretinopathy (NIV), an inherited autoinflammatory disease with otherwise poor clinical outcomes. METHODS. Vitreous biopsies from NIV patients were profiled by an antibody array for expression of 200 cytokine-signaling proteins. Non-NIV controls were compared with NIV samples from various stages of disease progression. Patterns were identified by 1-way ANOVA, hierarchical clustering, and pathway analysis. Subjects treated with repositioned therapies were followed longitudinally. RESULTS. Proteomic profiles revealed molecular pathways in NIV pathologies and implicated superior and inferior targets for therapy. Anti-VEGF injections resolved vitreous hemorrhages without the need for vitrectomy surgery. Methotrexate injections reversed inflammatory cell reactions without the side effects of corticosteroids. Anti–IL-6 therapy prevented recurrent fibrosis and retinal detachment where all prior antiinflammatory interventions had failed. The cytokine array also showed that TNF-α levels were normal and that corticosteroid-sensitive pathways were absent in fibrotic NIV, helping explain prior failure of these conventional therapeutic approaches. CONCLUSIONS. Personalized proteomics can uncover highly personalized therapies for autoinflammatory disease that can be timed with specific pathologic activities. This precision medicine strategy can also help prevent delivery of ineffective drugs. Importantly, proteomic profiling of liquid biopsies offers an endpoint analysis that can directly guide treatment using available drugs.
Gabriel Velez, Alexander G. Bassuk, Diana Colgan, Stephen H. Tsang, Vinit B. Mahajan
Glaucoma is an optic neuropathy characterized by progressive degeneration of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) and visual loss. Although one of the highest risk factors for glaucoma is elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) and reduction in IOP is the only proven treatment, the mechanism of IOP regulation is poorly understood. We report that the P2Y6 receptor is critical for lowering IOP and that ablation of the P2Y6 gene in mice (P2Y6KO) results in hypertensive glaucoma–like optic neuropathy. Topically applied uridine diphosphate, an endogenous selective agonist for the P2Y6 receptor, decreases IOP. The P2Y6 receptor was expressed in nonpigmented epithelial cells of the ciliary body and controlled aqueous humor dynamics. P2Y6KO mice exhibited sustained elevation of IOP, age-dependent damage to the optic nerve, thinning of ganglion cell plus inner plexiform layers, and a reduction of RGC numbers. These changes in P2Y6KO mice were attenuated by an IOP lowering agent. Consistent with RGC damage, visual functions were impaired in middle-aged P2Y6KO mice. We also found that expression and function of P2Y6 receptors in WT mice were significantly reduced by aging, another important risk factor for glaucoma. In summary, our data show that dysfunctional purinergic signaling causes IOP dysregulation, resulting in glaucomatous optic neuropathy.
Youichi Shinozaki, Kenji Kashiwagi, Kazuhiko Namekata, Akiko Takeda, Nobuhiko Ohno, Bernard Robaye, Takayuki Harada, Takeshi Iwata, Schuichi Koizumi
BACKGROUND. Noninvasive detection of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) with high specificity and sensitivity can greatly facilitate identification of at-risk populations for earlier, more effective intervention. AD patients exhibit a myriad of retinal pathologies, including hallmark amyloid β-protein (Aβ) deposits. METHODS. Burden, distribution, cellular layer, and structure of retinal Aβ plaques were analyzed in flat mounts and cross sections of definite AD patients and controls (n = 37). In a proof-of-concept retinal imaging trial (n = 16), amyloid probe curcumin formulation was determined and protocol was established for retinal amyloid imaging in live patients. RESULTS. Histological examination uncovered classical and neuritic-like Aβ deposits with increased retinal Aβ42 plaques (4.7-fold; P = 0.0063) and neuronal loss (P = 0.0023) in AD patients versus matched controls. Retinal Aβ plaque mirrored brain pathology, especially in the primary visual cortex (P = 0.0097 to P = 0.0018; Pearson’s r = 0.84–0.91). Retinal deposits often associated with blood vessels and occurred in hot spot peripheral regions of the superior quadrant and innermost retinal layers. Transmission electron microscopy revealed retinal Aβ assembled into protofibrils and fibrils. Moreover, the ability to image retinal amyloid deposits with solid-lipid curcumin and a modified scanning laser ophthalmoscope was demonstrated in live patients. A fully automated calculation of the retinal amyloid index (RAI), a quantitative measure of increased curcumin fluorescence, was constructed. Analysis of RAI scores showed a 2.1-fold increase in AD patients versus controls (P = 0.0031). CONCLUSION. The geometric distribution and increased burden of retinal amyloid pathology in AD, together with the feasibility to noninvasively detect discrete retinal amyloid deposits in living patients, may lead to a practical approach for large-scale AD diagnosis and monitoring. FUNDING. National Institute on Aging award (AG044897) and The Saban and The Marciano Family Foundations.
Yosef Koronyo, David Biggs, Ernesto Barron, David S. Boyer, Joel A. Pearlman, William J. Au, Shawn J. Kile, Austin Blanco, Dieu-Trang Fuchs, Adeel Ashfaq, Sally Frautschy, Gregory M. Cole, Carol A. Miller, David R. Hinton, Steven R. Verdooner, Keith L. Black, Maya Koronyo-Hamaoui
Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide. Physicians often use surrogate endpoints to monitor the progression of glaucomatous neurodegeneration. These approaches are limited in their ability to quantify disease severity and progression due to inherent subjectivity, unreliability, and limitations of normative databases. Therefore, there is a critical need to identify specific molecular markers that predict or measure glaucomatous neurodegeneration. Here, we demonstrate that growth differentiation factor 15 (GDF15) is associated with retinal ganglion cell death.
Norimitsu Ban, Carla J. Siegfried, Jonathan B. Lin, Ying-Bo Shui, Julia Sein, Wolfgang Pita-Thomas, Abdoulaye Sene, Andrea Santeford, Mae Gordon, Rachel Lamb, Zhenyu Dong, Shannon C. Kelly, Valeria Cavalli, Jun Yoshino, Rajendra S. Apte
Zika virus (ZIKV) is an important pathogen that causes not only neurologic, but also ocular, abnormalities. Thus, it is imperative that models to study ZIKV pathogenesis in the eye are developed to identify potential targets for interventions. Here, we studied ZIKV interactions with human retinal cells and evaluated ZIKV’s pathobiology in mouse eyes. We showed that cells lining the blood-retinal barrier (BRB), the retinal endothelium, and retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) were highly permissive and susceptible to ZIKV-induced cell death. Direct inoculation of ZIKV in eyes of adult C57BL/6 and IFN-stimulated gene 15 (ISG15) KO mice caused chorioretinal atrophy with RPE mottling, a common ocular manifestation of congenital ZIKV infection in humans. This response was associated with induced expression of multiple inflammatory and antiviral (IFNs) response genes in the infected mouse retina. Interestingly, ISG15 KO eyes exhibited severe chorioretinitis, which coincided with increased retinal cell death and higher ZIKV replication. Collectively, our study provides the first evidence to our knowledge that ZIKV causes retinal lesions and infects the cells lining the BRB and that ISG15 plays a role in retinal innate defense against ZIKV infection. Our mouse model can be used to study mechanisms underlying ZIKV-induced chorioretinitis and to gauge ocular antiviral therapies.
Pawan Kumar Singh, John-Michael Guest, Mamta Kanwar, Joseph Boss, Nan Gao, Mark S. Juzych, Gary W. Abrams, Fu-Shin Yu, Ashok Kumar
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