Retinal Degenerations

Farkas MH, Au ED, Sousa ME, Pierce EA. RNA-Seq: Improving Our Understanding of Retinal Biology and Disease. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med 2015;Abstract

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.

Hansen RM, Moskowitz A, Tavormina JL, Bush JN, Soni G, Fulton AB. Temporal summation in children with a history of retinopathy of prematurity. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2015;56(2):914-7.Abstract

PURPOSE: To assess temporal summation in children with a history of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) by determining the critical duration (tCRIT) for complete temporal summation under rod-mediated conditions. From prior ERG studies, it is known that the kinetics of activation of phototransduction are prolonged in the ROP rod photoreceptor. METHODS: Dark-adapted thresholds for detecting 10° diameter stimuli with durations from 10 to 640 ms were measured. A two-alternative, spatial, forced-choice psychophysical procedure was used. The tCRIT for complete summation was estimated in former preterm subjects with a history of severe ROP (n = 7), mild ROP (n = 23), and no ROP (n = 15). The subjects ranged in age from 10.4 to 17.6 (median 15.6) years. Age-similar term-born control subjects (n = 5) were also tested. RESULTS: Critical duration was significantly longer in subjects with a history of ROP than in subjects who never had ROP or who were born at term. Mean tCRIT in the mild ROP group [127.5 (SD = 19.9) ms] and severe group [147.6 (SD = 18.9) ms] did not differ significantly, but both were significantly longer than in former preterms who never had ROP [101.1 (SD = 16.5) ms] and in term-born controls [101.0 (SD = 19.5) ms]. CONCLUSIONS: In ROP subjects, tCRIT is significantly prolonged. This is likely due to abnormal kinetics in the rod outer segment.

Modjtahedi BS, Rong A, Bobinski M, McGahan J, Morse LS. Imaging characteristics of intraocular foreign bodies: a comparative study of plain film X-ray, computed tomography, ultrasound, and magnetic resonance imaging. Retina 2015;35(1):95-104.Abstract

PURPOSE: To determine the imaging features of common intraocular foreign bodies (IOFBs) and the ability to differentiate types of IOFBs. METHODS: Four-mm IOFBs were inserted via through pars plana approach into cadaveric lamb eyes. Six metallic (aluminum, brass, copper, silver, steel, and lead) and seven nonmetallic (plastic [CF6 spectacle plastic and polyvinyl chloride pipe], glass [bottle glass and windshield glass], wood [dry and wet poplar], and stone [slate]) IOFBs were imaged using plain film x-ray, computed tomography scan, ultrasound, and magnetic resonance imaging (T1, T2, and gradient echo sequences). RESULTS: Plain film x-ray had limited ability to differentiate most IOFBs. Computed tomography findings can be divided into low attenuation objects (wood), moderate attenuation (CF6 spectacle plastic), high attenuation without surrounding artifact (polyvinyl chloride, slate, bottle glass, windshield glass, and aluminum), high attenuation with shadow artifact and minimal edge streak artifact (steel, brass, copper), and high attenuation with significant shadow artifact and prominent streak artifact (silver and lead). Density (in Hounsfield units) aided in differentiating the types of IOFBs. Gradient echo sequences on magnetic resonance imaging also held utility. Ultrasound images had considerable overlap in appearances. CONCLUSION: Imaging techniques can significantly aid in determining the IOFBs type, with computed tomography serving as the best initial modality. X-ray holds limited utility while ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging are best reserved as adjunctive tests.

Bujakowska KM, Zhang Q, Siemiatkowska AM, Liu Q, Place E, Falk MJ, Consugar M, Lancelot M-E, Antonio A, Lonjou C, Carpentier W, Mohand-Saïd S, den Hollander AI, Cremers FPM, Leroy BP, Gai X, Sahel J-A, van den Born IL, Collin RWJ, Zeitz C, Audo I, Pierce EA. Mutations in IFT172 cause isolated retinal degeneration and Bardet-Biedl syndrome. Hum Mol Genet 2015;24(1):230-42.Abstract
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.
Liu Q, Hu Y, Yu H, Yuan L, Hu J, Atik A, Guan M, Li D, Li X, Tang S. Comparison of intravitreal triamcinolone acetonide versus intravitreal bevacizumab as the primary treatment of clinically significant macular edema. Retina 2015;35(2):272-9.Abstract

OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the short-term efficacy of triamcinolone acetonide versus bevacizumab for the treatment of diabetic, clinically significant, macular edema with different optical coherence tomography findings. METHODS: Fifty eyes of 45 consecutive patients with diabetic, clinically significant, macular edema were incorporated in this prospective interventional case series. Patients were divided into 3 groups according to findings on optical coherence tomography: 1) macular edema combined with serous retinal detachment (Group 1), 2) diffused macular thickening (Group 2), and 3) cystoid macular edema (Group 3). Patients from each group were treated with a single intravitreal injection of triamcinolone (IVTA) or 2 intravitreal injections of bevacizumab (IVB) with an interval of 6 weeks. Patients were observed at 6, 12, and 24 weeks after IVTA or the first IVB injection. Best-corrected visual acuity (BCVA) and central retinal thickness (CRT) were examined at each visit. Repeated-measures analysis of variance was used to compare the efficacy of the treatment groups. RESULTS: In Group 1, IVTA showed more favorable effects on CRT reduction and BCVA improvement compared with IVB at 6, 12, and 24 weeks (P = 0.002, 0.001, 0.027 and P = 0.036, 0.001, 0.027), respectively. In Group 2, IVB had more CRT reduction than IVTA at 6 and 12 weeks (P = 0.013 and 0.036), although there was no significant difference in BCVA improvement between the 2 groups (P > 0.05). In Group 3, IVTA and IVB did not have significant effects on CRT reduction and BCVA improvement (P > 0.05). CONCLUSION: The short-term efficacy of IVTA and IVB on treating clinically significant macular edema varied with different optical coherence tomography findings. In clinically significant macular edema combined with serous retinal detachment, IVTA may be more favorable than IVB in CRT reduction and BCVA improvement. In patients with diffused macular thickening, IVB may be better than IVTA in macular thickness reduction, although this does not translate to a significant improvement in BCVA.

Duncker T, Tsang SH, Lee W, Zernant J, Allikmets R, Delori FC, Sparrow JR. Quantitative Fundus Autofluorescence Distinguishes ABCA4-Associated and Non-ABCA4-Associated Bull's-Eye Maculopathy. Ophthalmology 2015;122(2):345-55.Abstract

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.

Murakami Y, Matsumoto H, Roh M, Giani A, Kataoka K, Morizane Y, Kayama M, Thanos A, Nakatake S, Notomi S, Hisatomi T, Ikeda Y, Ishibashi T, Connor KM, Miller JW, Vavvas DG. Programmed necrosis, not apoptosis, is a key mediator of cell loss and DAMP-mediated inflammation in dsRNA-induced retinal degeneration. Cell Death Differ 2014;21(2):270-7.Abstract
There is no known treatment for the dry form of an age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Cell death and inflammation are important biological processes thought to have central role in AMD. Here we show that receptor-interacting protein (RIP) kinase mediates necrosis and enhances inflammation in a mouse model of retinal degeneration induced by dsRNA, a component of drusen in AMD. In contrast to photoreceptor-induced apoptosis, subretinal injection of the dsRNA analog poly(I : C) caused necrosis of the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), as well as macrophage infiltration into the outer retinas. In Rip3(-/-) mice, both necrosis and inflammation were prevented, providing substantial protection against poly(I : C)-induced retinal degeneration. Moreover, after poly(I : C) injection, Rip3(-/-) mice displayed decreased levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines (such as TNF-α and IL-6) in the retina, and attenuated intravitreal release of high-mobility group box-1 (HMGB1), a major damage-associated molecular pattern (DAMP). In vitro, poly(I : C)-induced necrosis were inhibited in Rip3-deficient RPE cells, which in turn suppressed HMGB1 release and dampened TNF-α and IL-6 induction evoked by necrotic supernatants. On the other hand, Rip3 deficiency did not modulate directly TNF-α and IL-6 production after poly(I : C) stimulation in RPE cells or macrophages. Therefore, programmed necrosis is crucial in dsRNA-induced retinal degeneration and may promote inflammation by regulating the release of intracellular DAMPs, suggesting novel therapeutic targets for diseases such as AMD.
Benaglio P, San Jose PF, Avila-Fernandez A, Ascari G, Harper S, Manes G, Ayuso C, Hamel C, Berson EL, Rivolta C. Mutational screening of splicing factor genes in cases with autosomal dominant retinitis pigmentosa. Mol Vis 2014;20:843-51.Abstract

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.

Bujakowska KM, Consugar M, Place E, Harper S, Lena J, Taub DG, White J, Navarro-Gomez D, Weigel DiFranco C, Farkas MH, Gai X, Berson EL, Pierce EA. Targeted exon sequencing in Usher syndrome type I. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2014;55(12):8488-96.Abstract

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.

Lundgren P, Wilde Å, Löfqvist C, Smith LEH, Hård A-L, Hellström A. Weight at first detection of retinopathy of prematurity predicts disease severity. Br J Ophthalmol 2014;98(11):1565-9.Abstract
OBJECTIVE: To investigate whether postnatal weight at first detection of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) can predict preterm infants who will develop severe ROP warranting treatment. DESIGN: This modern, population-based cohort included 147 infants born at gestational age (GA) <32 weeks in the Gothenburg region during 2011-2012 and screened for ROP at Sahlgrenska University hospital. GA, birth weight (BW), and weekly postnatal weight from birth until postmenstrual age (PMA) 40 weeks data were retrospectively retrieved. Birth weight SD scores (BWSDS) were calculated. ROP data, including first detected ROP stage, maximal ROP stage, ROP treatment, and PMA at first detected sign of ROP were also retrieved. Weight SDS (WSDS) at first ROP detection was calculated. RESULTS: Stepwise multivariate logistic regression analysis revealed that the best fit-model of risk factors for developing severe ROP warranting treatment included; GA (OR=0.28, CI 95% 0.12 to 0.66, p<0.01) and WSDS at first ROP detection (OR=0.22, CI 95% 0.05 to 0.89, p<0.05). CONCLUSIONS: Low weight and low WSDS at first ROP detection can be useful predictors for ROP warranting treatment.
Yao J, Ko CW, Baranov PY, Regatieri CV, Redenti S, Tucker BA, Mighty J, Tao SL, Young MJ. Enhanced differentiation and delivery of mouse retinal progenitor cells using a micropatterned biodegradable thin-film polycaprolactone scaffold. Tissue Eng Part A 2014;Abstract

The deterioration of retinal tissue in advanced stages of retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration and the lack of signaling cues for laminar regeneration are significant challenges highlighting the need for a tissue-engineering approach to retinal repair. In this study, we fabricated a biodegradable thin-film polycaprolactone (PCL) scaffold with varying surface topographies using microfabrication techniques. Mouse retinal progenitor cells (mRPC) cultured on PCL scaffolds exhibited enhanced potential to differentiate towards a photoreceptor fate in comparison to mRPCs cultured on control substrates, suggesting that PCL scaffolds are promising as substrates to guide differentiation of mRPCs towards a photoreceptor fate in vitro prior to transplantation. When co-cultured with the retinal explants of rhodopsin null mice, mRPC/PCL constructs showed increased mRPC integration rates compared to directly applied dissociated mRPCs. Moreover, these mRPC/PCL constructs could be delivered into the sub-retinal space of rhodopsin null mice with minimal disturbance of the host retina. Whether co-cultured with retinal explants or transplanted into the sub-retinal space, newly integrated mRPCs localized to the outer nuclear layer and expressed appropriate markers of photoreceptor fate. Thus, the PCL scaffold provides a platform to guide differentiation and organized deliver of mRPCs as a practical strategy to repair damaged retina.

Birsner AE, Benny O, D'Amato RJ. The corneal micropocket assay: a model of angiogenesis in the mouse eye. J Vis Exp 2014;(90)Abstract
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.
Hu Y, Lin H, Dib B, Atik A, Bouzika P, Lin C, Yan Y, Tang S, Miller JW, Vavvas DG. Cholesterol crystals induce inflammatory cytokines expression in a human retinal pigment epithelium cell line by activating the NF-κB pathway. Discov Med 2014;18(97):7-14.Abstract

PURPOSE: To investigate the expression of inflammatory cytokines in ARPE-19 cells after stimulation with cholesterol crystals. METHODS: APRE-19 cells were cultured, primed with IL-1α, and treated with cholesterol crystals under different concentrations. Inflammatory cytokines (mature-IL-1β, IL-6, and IL-8) in supernatant and inflammatory cytokines (pro-IL-1β, IL-18) in cell lysate were detected by western blot. The NF-κB pathway inhibitor BAY 11-7082 was used to determine the pathway of cytokine expression. RESULTS: Cholesterol crystals did not induce the nucleotide-binding domain leucine-rich repeat containing family, pyrin domain containing 3 (NLRP3) inflammasome, but did increase pro-IL-1β expression in ARPE-19 cells. Cholesterol crystals increased pro-IL-1β expression by activating the NF-κB pathway. Cholesterol crystal activation of the NF-κB pathway also leads to increased IL-6 and IL-8 expression. CONCLUSION: Cholesterol crystals can induce inflammatory cytokine expression in ARPE-19 cells by activating the NF-κB pathway.

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