Organismal development requires the precise coordination of genetic programs to regulate cell fate and function. MEF2 transcription factors (TFs) play essential roles in this process but how these broadly expressed factors contribute to the generation of specific cell types during development is poorly understood. Here we show that despite being expressed in virtually all mammalian tissues, in the retina MEF2D binds to retina-specific enhancers and controls photoreceptor cell development. MEF2D achieves specificity by cooperating with a retina-specific factor CRX, which recruits MEF2D away from canonical MEF2 binding sites and redirects it to retina-specific enhancers that lack the consensus MEF2-binding sequence. Once bound to retina-specific enhancers, MEF2D and CRX co-activate the expression of photoreceptor-specific genes that are critical for retinal function. These findings demonstrate that broadly expressed TFs acquire specific functions through competitive recruitment to enhancers by tissue-specific TFs and through selective activation of these enhancers to regulate tissue-specific genes.
To review preclinical and clinical advances in gene therapy, with a focus on gene editing technologies, and application to inherited retinal disease. A narrative overview of the literature, summarizing the state-of-the-art in clinical gene therapy for inherited retinal disease, as well as the science and application of new gene editing technology. The last three years has seen the first FDA approval of an in vivo gene replacement therapy for a hereditary blinding eye disease and, recently, the first clinical application of an in vivo gene editing technique. Limitations and challenges in this evolving field are highlighted, as well as new technologies developed to address the multitude of molecular mechanisms of disease. Genetic therapy for the treatment of inherited retinal disease is a rapidly expanding area of ophthalmology. New technologies have revolutionized the field of genome engineering and rekindled an interest in precision medicines for these conditions.
PURPOSE: Mutations in genes encoding proteins from the tri-snRNP complex of the spliceosome account for more than 12% of cases of autosomal dominant retinitis pigmentosa (adRP). Although the exact mechanism by which splicing factor defects trigger photoreceptor death is not completely clear, their role in retinitis pigmentosa has been demonstrated by several genetic and functional studies. To test for possible novel associations between splicing factors and adRP, we screened four tri-snRNP splicing factor genes (EFTUD2, PRPF4, NHP2L1, and AAR2) as candidate disease genes. METHODS: We screened up to 303 patients with adRP from Europe and North America who did not carry known RP mutations. Exon-PCR and Sanger methods were used to sequence the NHP2L1 and AAR2 genes, while the sequences of EFTUD2 and PRPF4 were obtained by using long-range PCRs spanning coding and non-coding regions followed by next-generation sequencing. RESULTS: We detected novel missense changes in individual patients in the sequence of the genes PRPF4 and EFTUD2, but the role of these changes in relationship to disease could not be verified. In one other patient we identified a novel nucleotide substitution in the 5' untranslated region (UTR) of NHP2L1, which did not segregate with the disease in the family. CONCLUSIONS: The absence of clearly pathogenic mutations in the candidate genes screened in our cohort suggests that EFTUD2, PRPF4, NHP2L1, and AAR2 are either not involved in adRP or are associated with the disease in rare instances, at least as observed in this study in patients of European and North American origin.
The mouse corneal micropocket assay is a robust and quantitative in vivo assay for evaluating angiogenesis. By using standardized slow-release pellets containing specific growth factors that trigger blood vessel growth throughout the naturally avascular cornea, angiogenesis can be measured and quantified. In this assay the angiogenic response is generated over the course of several days, depending on the type and dose of growth factor used. The induction of neovascularization is commonly triggered by either basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) or vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). By combining these growth factors with sucralfate and hydron (poly-HEMA (poly(2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate))) and casting the mixture into pellets, they can be surgically implanted in the mouse eye. These uniform pellets slowly-release the growth factors over five or six days (bFGF or VEGF respectively) enabling sufficient angiogenic response required for vessel area quantification using a slit lamp. This assay can be used for different applications, including the evaluation of angiogenic modulator drugs or treatments as well as comparison between different genetic backgrounds affecting angiogenesis. A skilled investigator after practicing this assay can implant a pellet in less than 5 min per eye.
Inherited retinal degenerations (IRDs) are at the focus of current genetic therapeutic advancements. For a genetic treatment such as gene therapy to be successful, an accurate genetic diagnostic is required. Genetic diagnostics relies on the assessment of the probability that a given DNA variant is pathogenic. Non-coding variants present a unique challenge for such assessments as compared to coding variants. For one, non-coding variants are present at much higher number in the genome than coding variants. In addition, our understanding of the rules that govern the non-coding regions of the genome is less complete than our understanding of the coding regions. Methods that allow for both the identification of candidate non-coding pathogenic variants and their functional validation may help overcome these caveats allowing for a greater number of patients to benefit from advancements in genetic therapeutics. We present here an unbiased approach combining whole genome sequencing (WGS) with patient-induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived retinal organoids (ROs) transcriptome analysis. With this approach, we identified and functionally validated a novel pathogenic non-coding variant in a small family with a previously unresolved genetic diagnosis.
Primary cilia are sensory organelles present on most mammalian cells. The assembly and maintenance of primary cilia are facilitated by intraflagellar transport (IFT), a bidirectional protein trafficking along the cilium. Mutations in genes coding for IFT components have been associated with a group of diseases called ciliopathies. These genetic disorders can affect a variety of organs including the retina. Using whole exome sequencing in three families, we identified mutations in Intraflagellar Transport 172 Homolog [IFT172 (Chlamydomonas)] that underlie an isolated retinal degeneration and Bardet-Biedl syndrome. Extensive functional analyses of the identified mutations in cell culture, rat retina and in zebrafish demonstrated their hypomorphic or null nature. It has recently been reported that mutations in IFT172 cause a severe ciliopathy syndrome involving skeletal, renal, hepatic and retinal abnormalities (Jeune and Mainzer-Saldino syndromes). Here, we report for the first time that mutations in this gene can also lead to an isolated form of retinal degeneration. The functional data for the mutations can partially explain milder phenotypes; however, the involvement of modifying alleles in the IFT172-associated phenotypes cannot be excluded. These findings expand the spectrum of disease associated with mutations in IFT172 and suggest that mutations in genes originally reported to be associated with syndromic ciliopathies should also be considered in subjects with non-syndromic retinal dystrophy.
PURPOSE: Patients with Usher syndrome type I (USH1) have retinitis pigmentosa, profound congenital hearing loss, and vestibular ataxia. This syndrome is currently thought to be associated with at least six genes, which are encoded by over 180 exons. Here, we present the use of state-of-the-art techniques in the molecular diagnosis of a cohort of 47 USH1 probands. METHODS: The cohort was studied with selective exon capture and next-generation sequencing of currently known inherited retinal degeneration genes, comparative genomic hybridization, and Sanger sequencing of new USH1 exons identified by human retinal transcriptome analysis. RESULTS: With this approach, we were able to genetically solve 14 of the 47 probands by confirming the biallelic inheritance of mutations. We detected two likely pathogenic variants in an additional 19 patients, for whom family members were not available for cosegregation analysis to confirm biallelic inheritance. Ten patients, in addition to primary disease-causing mutations, carried rare likely pathogenic USH1 alleles or variants in other genes associated with deaf-blindness, which may influence disease phenotype. Twenty-one of the identified mutations were novel among the 33 definite or likely solved patients. Here, we also present a clinical description of the studied cohort at their initial visits. CONCLUSIONS: We found a remarkable genetic heterogeneity in the studied USH1 cohort with multiplicity of mutations, of which many were novel. No obvious influence of genotype on phenotype was found, possibly due to small sample sizes of the genotypes under study.
PURPOSE: Despite substantial progress in sequencing, current strategies can genetically solve only approximately 55-60% of inherited retinal degeneration (IRD) cases. This can be partially attributed to elusive mutations in the known IRD genes, which are not easily identified by the targeted next-generation sequencing (NGS) or Sanger sequencing approaches. We hypothesized that copy-number variations (CNVs) are a major contributor to the elusive genetic causality of IRDs. METHODS: Twenty-eight cases previously unsolved with a targeted NGS were investigated with whole-genome single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) and comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) arrays. RESULTS: Deletions in the IRD genes were detected in 5 of 28 families, including a de novo deletion. We suggest that the de novo deletion occurred through nonallelic homologous recombination (NAHR) and we constructed a genomic map of NAHR-prone regions with overlapping IRD genes. In this article, we also report an unusual case of recessive retinitis pigmentosa due to compound heterozygous mutations in SNRNP200, a gene that is typically associated with the dominant form of this disease. CONCLUSIONS: CNV mapping substantially increased the genetic diagnostic rate of IRDs, detecting genetic causality in 18% of previously unsolved cases. Extending the search to other structural variations will probably demonstrate an even higher contribution to genetic causality of IRDs.Genet Med advance online publication 13 October 2016.
Late-onset retinal degeneration (L-ORD) is an autosomal dominant macular degeneration characterized by the formation of sub-retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) deposits and neuroretinal atrophy. L-ORD results from mutations in the C1q-tumor necrosis factor-5 protein (CTRP5), encoded by the CTRP5/C1QTNF5 gene. To understand the mechanism underlying L-ORD pathology, we used a human cDNA library yeast two-hybrid screen to identify interacting partners of CTRP5. Additionally, we analyzed the Bruch's membrane/choroid (BM-Ch) from wild-type (Wt), heterozygous S163R Ctrp5 mutation knock-in (Ctrp5 ), and homozygous knock-in (Ctrp5 ) mice using mass spectrometry. Both approaches showed an association between CTRP5 and HTRA1 via its C-terminal PDZ-binding motif, stimulation of the HTRA1 protease activity by CTRP5, and CTRP5 serving as an HTRA1 substrate. The S163R-CTRP5 protein also binds to HTRA1 but is resistant to HTRA1-mediated cleavage. Immunohistochemistry and proteomic analysis showed significant accumulation of CTRP5 and HTRA1 in BM-Ch of Ctrp5 and Ctrp5 mice compared with Wt. Additional extracellular matrix (ECM) components that are HTRA1 substrates also accumulated in these mice. These results implicate HTRA1 and its interaction with CTRP5 in L-ORD pathology.
PURPOSE: To test the effects of an encapsulated cell-based delivery of a neuroprotective agent, ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF), on progression of macular telangiectasia type 2, a neurodegenerative disease with no proven effective therapy. DESIGN: Randomized sham-controlled clinical trial. PARTICIPANTS: Ninety-nine study eyes of 67 eligible participants were enrolled. METHODS: Single-masked randomized clinical trial of 24 months' duration conducted from May 2014 through April 2017 in 11 clinical centers of retinal specialists in the United States and Australia. Participants were randomized 1:1 to surgical implantation of intravitreal sustained delivery of human CNTF versus a sham procedure. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The primary outcome was the difference in the area of neurodegeneration as measured in the area of the ellipsoid zone disruption (or photoreceptor loss) measured on spectral-domain (SD) OCT images at 24 months from baseline between the treated and untreated groups. Secondary outcomes included comparison of visual function changes between treatment groups. RESULTS: Among the 67 participants who were randomized (mean age, 62±8.9 years; 41 women [61%]; 58 white persons [86%]), 65 (97%) completed the study. Two participants (3 study eyes) died and 3 participants (4 eyes) were found ineligible. The eyes receiving sham treatment had 31% greater progression of neurodegeneration than the CNTF-treated eyes. The difference in mean area of photoreceptor loss was 0.05±0.03 mm (P = 0.04) at 24 months. Retinal sensitivity changes, measured using microperimetry, were correlated highly with the changes in the area of photoreceptor loss (r = 0.86; P < 0.0001). The mean retinal sensitivity loss of the sham group was 45% greater than that of the treated group (decrease, 15.81±8.93 dB; P = 0.07). Reading speed deteriorated in the sham group (-13.9 words per minute) with no loss in the treated group (P = 0.02). Serious adverse ocular effects were found in 2 of 51 persons (4%) in the sham group and 2 of 48 persons (4%) in the treated group. CONCLUSIONS: In participants with macular telangiectasia type 2, a surgical implant that released CNTF into the vitreous cavity, compared with a sham procedure, slowed the progression of retinal degeneration. Further research is needed to assess longer-term clinical outcomes and safety.
The G309 allele of SNPs in the mouse double minute (MDM2) promoter locus is associated with a higher risk of cancer and proliferative vitreoretinopathy (PVR), but whether SNP G309 contributes to the pathogenesis of PVR is to date unknown. The clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-associated endonuclease (Cas) 9 from Streptococcus pyogenes (SpCas9) can be harnessed to manipulate a single or multiple nucleotides in mammalian cells. Here we delivered SpCas9 and guide RNAs using dual adeno-associated virus-derived vectors to target the MDM2 genomic locus together with a homologous repair template for creating the mutation of MDM2 T309G in human primary retinal pigment epithelial (hPRPE) cells whose genotype is MDM2 T309T. The next-generation sequencing results indicated that there was 42.51% MDM2 G309 in the edited hPRPE cells using adeno-associated viral CRISPR/Cas9. Our data showed that vitreous induced an increase in MDM2 and subsequent attenuation of p53 expression in MDM2 T309G hPRPE cells. Furthermore, our experimental results demonstrated that MDM2 T309G in hPRPE cells enhanced vitreous-induced cell proliferation and survival, suggesting that this SNP contributes to the pathogenesis of PVR.
By generating the second messenger cGMP in retinal rods and cones, ROS-GC plays a central role in visual transduction. Guanylate cyclase-activating proteins (GCAPs) link cGMP synthesis to the light-induced fall in [Ca(2+)]i to help set absolute sensitivity and assure prompt recovery of the response to light. The present report discloses a surprising feature of this system: ROS-GC is a sensor of bicarbonate. Recombinant ROS-GCs synthesized cGMP from GTP at faster rates in the presence of bicarbonate with an ED50 of 27 mm for ROS-GC1 and 39 mm for ROS-GC2. The effect required neither Ca(2+) nor use of the GCAPs domains; however, stimulation of ROS-GC1 was more powerful in the presence of GCAP1 or GCAP2 at low [Ca(2+)]. When applied to retinal photoreceptors, bicarbonate enhanced the circulating current, decreased sensitivity to flashes, and accelerated flash response kinetics. Bicarbonate was effective when applied either to the outer or inner segment of red-sensitive cones. In contrast, bicarbonate exerted an effect when applied to the inner segment of rods but had little efficacy when applied to the outer segment. The findings define a new regulatory mechanism of the ROS-GC system that affects visual transduction and is likely to affect the course of retinal diseases caused by cGMP toxicity.
PURPOSE: Quantitative fundus autofluorescence (qAF) and spectral-domain optical coherence tomography (SD OCT) were performed in patients with bull's-eye maculopathy (BEM) to identify phenotypic markers that can aid in the differentiation of ABCA4-associated and non-ABCA4-associated disease. DESIGN: Prospective cross-sectional study at an academic referral center. SUBJECTS: Thirty-seven BEM patients (age range, 8-60 years) were studied. All patients exhibited a localized macular lesion exhibiting a smooth contour and qualitatively normal-appearing surrounding retina without flecks. Control values consisted of previously published data from 277 healthy subjects (374 eyes; age range, 5-60 years) without a family history of retinal dystrophy. METHODS: Autofluorescence (AF) images (30°, 488-nm excitation) were acquired with a confocal scanning laser ophthalmoscope equipped with an internal fluorescent reference to account for variable laser power and detector sensitivity. The grey levels (GLs) from 8 circularly arranged segments positioned at an eccentricity of approximately 7° to 9° in each image were calibrated to the reference (0 GL), magnification, and normative optical media density to yield qAF. In addition, horizontal SD OCT images through the fovea were obtained. All patients were screened for ABCA4 mutations using the ABCR600 microarray, next-generation sequencing, or both. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Quantitative AF, correlations between AF and SD OCT, and genotyping for ABCA4 variants. RESULTS: ABCA4 mutations were identified in 22 patients, who tended to be younger (mean age, 21.9±8.3 years) than patients without ABCA4 mutations (mean age, 42.1±14.9 years). Whereas phenotypic differences were not obvious on the basis of qualitative fundus AF and SD OCT imaging, with qAF, the 2 groups of patients were clearly distinguishable. In the ABCA4-positive group, 37 of 41 eyes (19 of 22 patients) had qAF8 of more than the 95% confidence interval for age. Conversely, in the ABCA4-negative group, 22 of 26 eyes (13 of 15 patients) had qAF8 within the normal range. CONCLUSIONS: The qAF method can differentiate between ABCA4-associated and non-ABCA4-associated BEM and may guide clinical diagnosis and genetic testing.
PURPOSE: To assess whether quantitative fundus autofluorescence (qAF), a measure of RPE lipofuscin, and spectral-domain optical coherence tomography (SD-OCT) can aid in the differentiation of patients with fundus features that could either be related to ABCA4 mutations or be part of the phenotypic spectrum of pattern dystrophies. METHODS: Autofluorescence images (30°, 488-nm excitation) from 39 patients (67 eyes) were acquired with a confocal scanning laser ophthalmoscope equipped with an internal fluorescent reference and were quantified as previously described. In addition, horizontal SD-OCT images through the fovea were obtained. Patients were screened for ABCA4 and PRPH2/RDS mutations. RESULTS: ABCA4 mutations were identified in 19 patients (mean age, 37 ± 12 years) and PRPH2/RDS mutations in 8 patients (mean age, 48 ± 13 years); no known ABCA4 or PRPH2/RDS mutations were found in 12 patients (mean age, 48 ± 9 years). Differentiation of the groups using phenotypic SD-OCT and AF features (e.g., peripapillary sparing, foveal sparing) was not reliable. However, patients with ABCA4 mutations could be discriminated reasonably well from other patients when qAF values were corrected for age and race. In general, ABCA4 patients had higher qAF values than PRPH2/RDS patients, while most patients without mutations in PRPH2/RDS or ABCA4 had qAF levels within the normal range. CONCLUSIONS: The high qAF levels of ABCA4-positive patients are a hallmark of ABCA4-related disease. The reason for high qAF among many PRPH2/RDS-positive patients is not known; higher RPE lipofuscin accumulation may be a primary or secondary effect of the PRPH2/RDS mutation.
Autoimmune retinopathy (AIR) refers to a group of rare autoimmune retinal degenerative diseases presumably caused by cross-reactivity of serum autoantibodies against retinal antigens. The pathogenesis of AIR remains largely presumptive and there are a significant number of antiretinal antibodies that have been detected in association with AIR. The diagnosis of AIR is largely based on the demonstration of antiretinal antibodies in the serum along with suggestive clinical features and ancillary investigations. A high index of suspicion along with early diagnosis and treatment may play a critical role to lower the risk of irreversible immunological damage to the retinal cells in these patients. A multi-disciplinary approach for complete management and evaluation is helpful in such conditions. Various therapeutic options have been described for the treatment of AIR, though there is no consensus on standard treatment protocol.
Over the past several years, rapid technological advances have allowed for a dramatic increase in our knowledge and understanding of the transcriptional landscape, because of the ability to study gene expression in greater depth and with more detail than previously possible. To this end, RNA-Seq has quickly become one of the most widely used methods for studying transcriptomes of tissues and individual cells. Unlike previously favored analysis methods, RNA-Seq is extremely high-throughput, and is not dependent on an annotated transcriptome, laying the foundation for novel genetic discovery. Additionally, RNA-Seq derived transcriptomes provide a basis for widening the scope of research to identify potential targets in the treatment of retinal disease.