Retinal Degenerations

Retinal Degenerations Publications

Lee D, Nakai A, Miwa Y, Tomita Y, Kunimi H, Chen J, Ikeda S-I, Tsubota K, Negishi K, Kurihara T. Retinal degeneration induced in a mouse model of ischemia-reperfusion injury and its management by pemafibrate treatment. FASEB J 2022;36(9):e22497.Abstract
Retinal ischemia-reperfusion (I/R) injury is a common cause of visual impairment. To date, no effective treatment is available for retinal I/R injury. In addition, the precise pathological mechanisms still need to be established. Recently, pemafibrate, a peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor α (PPARα) modulator, was shown to be a promising drug for retinal ischemia. However, the role of pemafibrate in preventing retinal I/R injury has not been documented. Here, we investigated how retinal degeneration occurs in a mouse model of retinal I/R injury by elevation of intraocular pressure and examined whether pemafibrate could be beneficial against retinal degeneration. Adult mice were orally administered pemafibrate (0.5 mg/kg/day) for 4 days, followed by retinal I/R injury. The mice were continuously administered pemafibrate once every day until the end of the experiments. Retinal functional changes were measured using electroretinography. Retina, liver, and serum samples were used for western blotting, quantitative PCR, immunohistochemistry, or enzyme linked immunosorbent assay. Retinal degeneration induced by retinal inflammation was prevented by pemafibrate administration. Pemafibrate administration increased the hepatic PPARα target gene expression and serum levels of fibroblast growth factor 21, a neuroprotective molecule in the eye. The expression of hypoxia-response and pro-and anti-apoptotic/inflammatory genes increased in the retina following retinal I/R injury; however, these changes were modulated by pemafibrate administration. In conclusion, pemafibrate is a promising preventive drug for ischemic retinopathies.
Moos WH, Faller DV, Glavas IP, Harpp DN, Kamperi N, Kanara I, Kodukula K, Mavrakis AN, Pernokas J, Pernokas M, Pinkert CA, Powers WR, Sampani K, Steliou K, Tamvakopoulos C, Vavvas DG, Zamboni RJ, Chen XH. Treatment and prevention of pathological mitochondrial dysfunction in retinal degeneration and in photoreceptor injury. Biochem Pharmacol 2022;203:115168.Abstract
Pathological deterioration of mitochondrial function is increasingly linked with multiple degenerative illnesses as a mediator of a wide range of neurologic and age-related chronic diseases, including those of genetic origin. Several of these diseases are rare, typically defined in the United States as an illness affecting fewer than 200,000 people in the U.S. population, or about one in 1600 individuals. Vision impairment due to mitochondrial dysfunction in the eye is a prominent feature evident in numerous primary mitochondrial diseases and is common to the pathophysiology of many of the familiar ophthalmic disorders, including age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and retinopathy of prematurity - a collection of syndromes, diseases and disorders with significant unmet medical needs. Focusing on metabolic mitochondrial pathway mechanisms, including the possible roles of cuproptosis and ferroptosis in retinal mitochondrial dysfunction, we shed light on the potential of α-lipoyl-L-carnitine in treating eye diseases. α-Lipoyl-L-carnitine is a bioavailable mitochondria-targeting lipoic acid prodrug that has shown potential in protecting against retinal degeneration and photoreceptor cell loss in ophthalmic indications.
Amamoto R, Wallick GK, Cepko CL. Retinoic acid signaling mediates peripheral cone photoreceptor survival in a mouse model of retina degeneration. Elife 2022;11Abstract
Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) is a progressive, debilitating visual disorder caused by mutations in a diverse set of genes. In both humans with RP and mouse models of RP, rod photoreceptor dysfunction leads to loss of night vision, and is followed by secondary cone photoreceptor dysfunction and degeneration, leading to loss of daylight color vision. A strategy to prevent secondary cone death could provide a general RP therapy to preserve daylight color vision regardless of the underlying mutation. In mouse models of RP, cones in the peripheral retina survive long-term, despite complete rod loss. The mechanism for such peripheral cone survival had not been explored. Here, we found that active retinoic acid (RA) signaling in peripheral Muller glia is necessary for the abnormally long survival of these peripheral cones. RA depletion by conditional knockout of RA synthesis enzymes, or overexpression of an RA degradation enzyme, abrogated the extended survival of peripheral cones. Conversely, constitutive activation of RA signaling in the central retina promoted long-term cone survival. These results indicate that RA signaling mediates the prolonged peripheral cone survival in the rd1 mouse model of retinal degeneration, and provide a basis for a generic strategy for cone survival in the many diseases that lead to loss of cone-mediated vision.
Zampaglione E, Maher M, Place EM, Wagner NE, DiTroia S, Chao KR, England E, Cmg B, Catomeris A, Nassiri S, Himes S, Pagliarulo J, Ferguson C, Galdikaité-Braziené E, Cole B, Pierce EA, Bujakowska KM. The importance of automation in genetic diagnosis: Lessons from analyzing an inherited retinal degeneration cohort with the Mendelian Analysis Toolkit (MATK). Genet Med 2022;24(2):332-343.Abstract
PURPOSE: In Mendelian disease diagnosis, variant analysis is a repetitive, error-prone, and time consuming process. To address this, we have developed the Mendelian Analysis Toolkit (MATK), a configurable, automated variant ranking program. METHODS: MATK aggregates variant information from multiple annotation sources and uses expert-designed rules with parameterized weights to produce a ranked list of potentially causal solutions. MATK performance was measured by a comparison between MATK-aided and human-domain expert analyses of 1060 families with inherited retinal degeneration (IRD), analyzed using an IRD-specific gene panel (589 individuals) and exome sequencing (471 families). RESULTS: When comparing MATK-assisted analysis with expert curation in both the IRD-specific gene panel and exome sequencing (1060 subjects), 97.3% of potential solutions found by experts were also identified by the MATK-assisted analysis (541 solutions identified with MATK of 556 solutions found by conventional analysis). Furthermore, MATK-assisted analysis identified 114 additional potential solutions from the 504 cases unsolved by conventional analysis. CONCLUSION: MATK expedites the process of identification of likely solving variants in Mendelian traits, and reduces variability stemming from human error and researcher bias. MATK facilitates data reanalysis to keep up with the constantly improving annotation sources and next-generation sequencing processing pipelines. The software is open source and available at https://gitlab.com/matthew_maher/mendelanalysis.
Brown EE, Scandura MJ, Mehrotra S, Wang Y, Du J, Pierce EA. Reduced nuclear NAD+ drives DNA damage and subsequent immune activation in the retina. Hum Mol Genet 2022;31(9):1370-1388.Abstract
Mutations in NMNAT1, a key enzyme involved in the synthesis of NAD+ in the nucleus, lead to an early onset severe inherited retinal degeneration (IRD). We aimed to understand the role of nuclear NAD+ in the retina and to identify the molecular mechanisms underlying NMNAT1-associated disease, using a mouse model that harbors the p.V9M mutation in Nmnat1 (Nmnat1V9M/V9M). We identified temporal transcriptional reprogramming in the retinas of Nmnat1V9M/V9M mice prior to retinal degeneration, which begins at 4 weeks of age, with no significant alterations in gene expression at 2 weeks of age and over 2600 differentially expressed genes by 3 weeks of age. Expression of the primary consumer of NAD+ in the nucleus, PARP1, an enzyme involved in DNA damage repair and transcriptional regulation, as well as 7 other PARP family enzymes, was elevated in the retinas of Nmnat1V9M/V9M. This was associated with elevated levels of DNA damage, PARP-mediated NAD+ consumption and migration of Iba1+/CD45+ microglia/macrophages to the subretinal space in the retinas of Nmnat1V9M/V9M mice. These findings suggest that photoreceptor cells are especially sensitive to perturbation of genome homeostasis, and that PARP-mediated cell death may play a role in other genetic forms of IRDs, and potentially other forms of neurodegeneration.
Scott HA, Larson A, Rong SS, Mehrotra S, Butcher R, Chao KR, Wiggs JL, Place EM, Pierce EA, Bujakowska KM. A hidden structural variation in a known IRD gene: a cautionary tale of two new disease candidate genes. Cold Spring Harb Mol Case Stud 2022;8(2)Abstract
Rod-cone dystrophy (RCD), also known as retinitis pigmentosa, is an inherited condition leading to vision loss, affecting 1 in 3500 people. More than 270 genes are known to be implicated in the inherited retinal degenerations (IRDs), yet genetic diagnosis for ∼30% of IRD of patients remains elusive despite advances in sequencing technologies. The goal of this study was to determine the genetic causality in a family with RCD. Family members were given a full ophthalmic exam at the Retinal Service at Massachusetts Eye and Ear and consented to genetic testing. Whole-exome sequencing (WES) was performed and variants of interest were Sanger-validated. Functional assays were conducted in zebrafish along with splicing assays in relevant cell lines to determine the impact on retinal function. WES identified variants in two potential candidate genes that segregated with disease: GNL3 (G Protein Nucleolar 3) c.1187 + 3A > C and c.1568-8C > A; and PDE4DIP (Phosphodiester 4D Interacting Protein) c.3868G > A (p.Glu1290Lys) and c.4603G > A (p.Ala1535Thr). Both genes were promising candidates based on their retinal involvement (development and interactions with IRD-associated proteins); however, the functional assays did not validate either gene. Subsequent WES reanalysis with an updated bioinformatics pipeline and widened search parameters led to the detection of a 94-bp duplication in PRPF31 (pre-mRNA Processing Factor 31) c.73_266dup (p.Asp56GlyfsTer33) as the causal variant. Our study demonstrates the importance of thorough functional characterization of new disease candidate genes and the value of reanalyzing next-generation sequencing sequence data, which in our case led to identification of a hidden pathogenic variant in a known IRD gene.
Greenwald SH, Brown EE, Scandura MJ, Hennessey E, Farmer R, Du J, Wang Y, Pierce EA. Mutant Nmnat1 leads to a retina-specific decrease of NAD+ accompanied by increased poly(ADP-ribose) in a mouse model of NMNAT1-associated retinal degeneration. Hum Mol Genet 2021;30(8):644-657.Abstract
Nicotinamide mononucleotide adenylyltransferase 1 (NMNAT1) is required for nuclear nicotinamide adenine mononucleotide (NAD+) biosynthesis in all nucleated cells, and despite its functional ubiquity, mutations in this gene lead to an isolated retinal degeneration. The mechanisms underlying how mutant NMNAT1 causes disease are not well understood, nor is the reason why the pathology is confined to the retina. Using a mouse model of NMNAT1-associated retinal degeneration that harbors the p.Val9Met mutation, we tested the hypothesis that decreased function of mutant NMNAT1 has a greater effect on the levels of NAD+ in the retina than elsewhere in the body. Measurements by liquid chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry showed an early and sustained decrease of NAD+ in mutant retinas that was not observed in other tissues. To understand how consumers of nuclear NAD+ are affected by the reduced availability of NAD+ in mutant retinas, poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) and nuclear sirtuin activity were evaluated. PARP activity was elevated during disease progression, as evidenced by overproduction of poly(ADP-ribose) (PAR) in photoreceptors, whereas histone deacetylation activity of nuclear sirtuins was not altered. We hypothesized that PARP could be activated because of elevated levels of oxidative stress; however, we did not observe oxidative DNA damage, lipid peroxidation, or a low glutathione to oxidized glutathione ratio. Terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick end labeling staining revealed that photoreceptors appear to ultimately die by apoptosis, although the low NAD+ levels and overproduction of PAR suggest that cell death may include aspects of the parthanatos cell death pathway.
Ballios BG, Pierce EA, Huckfeldt RM. Gene editing technology: Towards precision medicine in inherited retinal diseases. Semin Ophthalmol 2021;36(4):176-184.Abstract
Purpose: To review preclinical and clinical advances in gene therapy, with a focus on gene editing technologies, and application to inherited retinal disease.Methods: 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.Results: 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.Conclusion: 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.
Li S, Datta S, Brabbit E, Love Z, Woytowicz V, Flattery K, Capri J, Yao K, Wu S, Imboden M, Upadhyay A, Arumugham R, Thoreson WB, Deangelis MM, Haider NB. Nr2e3 is a genetic modifier that rescues retinal degeneration and promotes homeostasis in multiple models of retinitis pigmentosa. Gene Ther 2021;28(5):223-241.Abstract
Recent advances in viral vector engineering, as well as an increased understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanism of retinal diseases, have led to the development of novel gene therapy approaches. Furthermore, ease of accessibility and ocular immune privilege makes the retina an ideal target for gene therapies. In this study, the nuclear hormone receptor gene Nr2e3 was evaluated for efficacy as broad-spectrum therapy to attenuate early to intermediate stages of retinal degeneration in five unique mouse models of retinitis pigmentosa (RP). RP is a group of heterogenic inherited retinal diseases associated with over 150 gene mutations, affecting over 1.5 million individuals worldwide. RP varies in age of onset, severity, and rate of progression. In addition, ~40% of RP patients cannot be genetically diagnosed, confounding the ability to develop personalized RP therapies. Remarkably, Nr2e3 administered therapy resulted in reduced retinal degeneration as observed by increase in photoreceptor cells, improved electroretinogram, and a dramatic molecular reset of key transcription factors and associated gene networks. These therapeutic effects improved retinal homeostasis in diseased tissue. Results of this study provide evidence that Nr2e3 can serve as a broad-spectrum therapy to treat multiple forms of RP.
Ning K, Song E, Sendayen BE, Prosseda PP, Chang K-C, Ghaffarieh A, Alvarado JA, Wang B, Haider KM, Berbari NF, Hu Y, Sun Y. Defective INPP5E distribution in NPHP1-related Senior-Loken syndrome. Mol Genet Genomic Med 2020;:e1566.Abstract
BACKGROUND: Senior-Loken syndrome is a rare genetic disorder that presents with nephronophthisis and retinal degeneration, leading to end-stage renal disease and progressive blindness. The most frequent cause of juvenile nephronophthisis is a mutation in the nephronophthisis type 1 (NPHP1) gene. NPHP1 encodes the protein nephrocystin-1, which functions at the transition zone (TZ) of primary cilia. METHODS: We report a 9-year-old Senior-Loken syndrome boy with NPHP1 deletion, who presents with bilateral vision decrease and cystic renal disease. Renal function deteriorated to require bilateral nephrectomy and renal transplant. We performed immunohistochemistry, H&E staining, and electron microscopy on the renal sample to determine the subcellular distribution of ciliary proteins in the absence of NPHP1. RESULTS: Immunohistochemistry and electron microscopy of the resected kidney showed disorganized cystic structures with loss of cilia in renal tubules. Phosphoinositides have been recently recognized as critical components of the ciliary membrane and immunostaining of kidney sections for phosphoinositide 5-phosphatase, INPP5E, showed loss of staining compared to healthy control. Ophthalmic examination showed decreased electroretinogram consistent with early retinal degeneration. CONCLUSION: The decreased expression of INPP5E specifically in the primary cilium, coupled with disorganized cilia morphology, suggests a novel role of NPHP1 that it is involved in regulating ciliary phosphoinositide composition in the ciliary membrane of renal tubular cells.
Dutta Majumder P, Marchese A, Pichi F, Garg I, Agarwal A. An update on autoimmune retinopathy. Indian J Ophthalmol 2020;68(9):1829-1837.Abstract
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.
Wang SK, Xue Y, Cepko CL. Microglia modulation by TGF-β1 protects cones in mouse models of retinal degeneration. J Clin Invest 2020;130(8):4360-4369.Abstract
Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is a genetically heterogenous group of eye diseases in which initial degeneration of rods triggers secondary degeneration of cones, leading to significant loss of daylight, color, and high-acuity vision. Gene complementation with adeno-associated viral (AAV) vectors is one strategy to treat RP. Its implementation faces substantial challenges, however; for example, the tremendous number of loci with causal mutations. Gene therapy targeting secondary cone degeneration is an alternative approach that could provide a much-needed generic treatment for many patients with RP. Here, we show that microglia are required for the upregulation of potentially neurotoxic inflammatory factors during cone degeneration in RP, creating conditions that might contribute to cone dysfunction and death. To ameliorate the effects of such factors, we used AAV vectors to express isoforms of the antiinflammatory cytokine transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β). AAV-mediated delivery of TGF-β1 rescued degenerating cones in 3 mouse models of RP carrying different pathogenic mutations. Treatment with TGF-β1 protected vision, as measured by 2 behavioral assays, and could be pharmacologically disrupted by either depleting microglia or blocking the TGF-β receptors. Our results suggest that TGF-β1 may be broadly beneficial for patients with cone degeneration, and potentially other forms of neurodegeneration, through a pathway dependent upon microglia.
Bronstein R, Capowski EE, Mehrotra S, Jansen AD, Navarro-Gomez D, Maher M, Place E, Sangermano R, Bujakowska KM, Gamm DM, Pierce EA. A combined RNA-seq and whole genome sequencing approach for identification of non-coding pathogenic variants in single families. Hum Mol Genet 2020;29(6):967-979.Abstract
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.
Zampaglione E, Kinde B, Place EM, Navarro-Gomez D, Maher M, Jamshidi F, Nassiri S, Mazzone AJ, Finn C, Schlegel D, Comander J, Pierce EA, Bujakowska KM. Copy-number variation contributes 9% of pathogenicity in the inherited retinal degenerations. Genet Med 2020;22(6):1079-1087.Abstract
PURPOSE: Current sequencing strategies can genetically solve 55-60% of inherited retinal degeneration (IRD) cases, despite recent progress in sequencing. This can partially be attributed to elusive pathogenic variants (PVs) in known IRD genes, including copy-number variations (CNVs), which have been shown as major contributors to unsolved IRD cases. METHODS: Five hundred IRD patients were analyzed with targeted next-generation sequencing (NGS). The NGS data were used to detect CNVs with ExomeDepth and gCNV and the results were compared with CNV detection with a single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) array. Likely causal CNV predictions were validated by quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR). RESULTS: Likely disease-causing single-nucleotide variants (SNVs) and small indels were found in 55.6% of subjects. PVs in USH2A (11.6%), RPGR (4%), and EYS (4%) were the most common. Likely causal CNVs were found in an additional 8.8% of patients. Of the three CNV detection methods, gCNV showed the highest accuracy. Approximately 30% of unsolved subjects had a single likely PV in a recessive IRD gene. CONCLUSION: CNV detection using NGS-based algorithms is a reliable method that greatly increases the genetic diagnostic rate of IRDs. Experimentally validating CNVs helps estimate the rate at which IRDs might be solved by a CNV plus a more elusive variant.

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