Retinal Degenerations

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.

Sahin O, Ziaei A. The role of methotrexate in resolving ocular inflammation after specific therapy for presumed latent syphilitic uveitis and presumed tuberculosis-related uveitis. Retina 2014;34(7):1451-9.Abstract
PURPOSE: This study was designed to investigate whether the antiinflammatory and antiproliferative activity of oral and intravitreal methotrexate (MTX) suppresses intraocular inflammation in patients with presumed latent syphilitic uveitis and presumed tuberculosis-related uveitis. METHODS: Interventional prospective study including three cases with presumed latent syphilitic uveitis treated with intravenous penicillin and oral MTX, and two cases with presumed tuberculosis-related uveitis treated with standard antituberculosis therapy and intravitreal MTX injections. Treatment efficacy of all cases was assessed by best-corrected visual acuity, fundus fluorescein angiography, and optical coherence tomography. RESULTS: Four eyes of 3 patients with presumed latent syphilitic uveitis had improved best-corrected visual acuity, suppression of intraocular inflammation, and resolution of cystoid macular edema in 6 months with oral MTX therapy. No recurrence of intraocular inflammation was observed in 6 months to 18 months of follow-up period after cessation of MTX. Two eyes of two patients with presumed tuberculosis-related uveitis showed improved best-corrected visual acuity, suppression of intraocular inflammation, and resolution of cystoid macular edema after intravitreal injections of MTX. No recurrence of intraocular inflammation was observed in 6 months to 8 months of follow-up period after cessation of antituberculous therapy. CONCLUSION: For the first time in the treatment of presumed latent syphilitic uveitis and presumed tuberculosis-related uveitis, we believe that MTX might have an adjunctive role to suppress intraocular inflammation, reduce uveitic macular edema, and prevent the recurrences of the diseases.
Patel M, Vavvas DG. Spontaneous resolution of a postvitrectomy macular hole retinal detachment. Retin Cases Brief Rep 2014;8(3):161-3.Abstract

PURPOSE: The purpose of this report was to describe a case of spontaneous resolution of a large postvitrectomy macular hole retinal detachment. METHODS: Case report and optical coherence tomography imaging. RESULTS: A 64-year-old man with history of macula-off retinal detachment and 4 previous vitrectomies in the left eye developed a macular hole and associated retinal detachment 3 months after his last vitreoretinal surgery. Two months later, examination revealed that the macular hole had spontaneously closed, and the retinal detachment had resolved. CONCLUSION: Spontaneous resolution of macular hole-associated retinal detachment in a previously vitrectomized eye has not been reported previously. Changes in tangential traction by the associated epiretinal membrane, improvement of the cystoid changes noted at the edge of the macular hole, and/or proliferation of glial tissue to bridge the hole, along with the absorption of the subretinal fluid by the retinal pigment epithelium pump contributed to this rare event have been hyphothesized.

Sweigard HJ, Yanai R, Gaissert P, Saint-Geniez M, Kataoka K, Thanos A, Stahl GL, Lambris JD, Connor KM. The alternative complement pathway regulates pathological angiogenesis in the retina. FASEB J 2014;28(7):3171-82.Abstract
A defining feature in proliferative retinopathies is the formation of pathological neovessels. In these diseases, the balance between neovessel formation and regression determines blindness, making the modulation of neovessel growth highly desirable. The role of the immune system in these retinopathies is of increasing interest, but it is not completely understood. We investigated the role of the alternative complement pathway during the formation and resolution of aberrant neovascularization. We used alternative complement pathway-deficient (Fb(-/-)) mice and age- and strain-matched control mice to assess neovessel development and regression in an oxygen-induced retinopathy (OIR) mouse model. In the control mice, we found increased transcription of Fb after OIR treatment. In the Fb(-/-) mice, we prepared retinal flatmounts and identified an increased number of neovessels, peaking at postnatal day 17 (P17; P=0.001). Subjecting human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) to low oxygen, mimicking a characteristic of neovessels, decreased the expression of the complement inhibitor Cd55. Finally, using laser capture microdissection (LCM) to isolate the neovessels after OIR, we found decreased expression of Cd55 (P=0.005). Together, our data implicate the alternative complement pathway in facilitating neovessel clearance by down-regulating the complement inhibitor Cd55 specifically on neovessels, allowing for their targeted removal while leaving the established vasculature intact.-Sweigard, J. H., Yanai, R., Gaissert, P., Saint-Geniez, M., Kataoka, K., Thanos, A., Stahl, G. L., Lambris, J. D., Connor, K. M. The alternative complement pathway regulates pathological angiogenesis in the retina.
Farkas MH, Lew DS, Sousa ME, Bujakowska K, Chatagnon J, Bhattacharya SS, Pierce EA, Nandrot EF. Mutations in pre-mRNA processing factors 3, 8, and 31 cause dysfunction of the retinal pigment epithelium. Am J Pathol 2014;184(10):2641-52.Abstract

Mutations in the ubiquitously expressed pre-mRNA processing factors 3, 8, and 31 (PRPF3, PRPF8, and PRPF31) cause nonsyndromic dominant retinitis pigmentosa in humans, an inherited retinal degeneration. It is unclear what mechanisms, or which cell types of the retina, are affected. Transgenic mice with the human mutations in these genes display late-onset morphological changes in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). To determine whether the observed morphological changes are preceded by abnormal RPE function, we investigated its phagocytic function in Prpf3(T494M/T494M), Prpf8(H2309P/H2309P), and Prpf31(+/-) mice. We observe decreased phagocytosis in primary RPE cultures from mutant mice, and this is replicated by shRNA-mediated knockdown of PRPF31 in human ARPE-19 cells. The diurnal rhythmicity of phagocytosis is almost lost, indicated by the marked attenuation of the phagocytic burst 2 hours after light onset. The strength of adhesion between RPE apical microvilli and photoreceptor outer segments also declined during peak adhesion in all mutants. In all models, at least one of the receptors involved in binding and internalization of shed photoreceptor outer segments was subjected to changes in localization. Although the mechanism underlying these changes in RPE function is yet to be elucidated, these data are consistent with the mouse RPE being the primary cell affected by mutations in the RNA splicing factors, and these changes occur at an early age.

Song D, Grieco S, Li Y, Hunter A, Chu S, Zhao L, Song Y, DeAngelis RA, Shi L-Y, Liu Q, Pierce EA, Nishina PM, Lambris JD, Dunaief JL. A murine RP1 missense mutation causes protein mislocalization and slowly progressive photoreceptor degeneration. Am J Pathol 2014;184(10):2721-9.Abstract
Mutations in the RP1 gene can cause retinitis pigmentosa. We identified a spontaneous L66P mutation caused by two adjacent point mutations in the Rp1 gene in a colony of C57BL/6J mice. Mice homozygous for the L66P mutation exhibited slow, progressive photoreceptor degeneration throughout their lifespan. Optical coherence tomography imaging found abnormal photoreceptor reflectivity at 1 month of age. Histology found shortening and disorganization of the photoreceptor inner and outer segments and progressive thinning of the outer nuclear layer. Electroretinogram a- and b-wave amplitudes were decreased with age. Western blot analysis found that the quantity and size of the mutated retinitis pigmentosa 1 (RP1) protein were normal. However, immunohistochemistry found that the mutant Rp1 protein partially mislocalized to the transition zone of the shortened axonemes. This mutation disrupted colocalization with cytoplasmic microtubules in vitro. In conclusion, the L66P mutation in the first doublecortin domain of the Rp1 gene impairs Rp1 protein localization and function, leading to abnormalities in photoreceptor outer segment structure and progressive photoreceptor degeneration. This is the first missense mutation in Rp1 shown to cause retinal degeneration. It provides a unique, slowly progressive photoreceptor degeneration model that mirrors the slow degeneration kinetics in most patients with retinitis pigmentosa.
Kazlauskas A. Plakophilin-2 promotes activation of epidermal growth factor receptor. Mol Cell Biol 2014;34(20):3778-9.Abstract

While growth factor-driven dimerization of receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) is a simple and intuitive mechanism of activating RTKs, K.-I. Arimoto et al. (Mol. Cell. Biol. 34:3843-3854, 2014, doi:10.1128/MCB.00758-14) describe a novel means of promoting the activity of RTKs. Namely, plakophilin-2 (PKP2) associates with the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and enhances its ligand-dependent and ligand-independent activity. This discovery suggests that antagonizing PKP2 may be a new therapeutic opportunity to combat tumors in which activation of EGFR contributes to pathogenesis.

Valdez CN, Arboleda-Velasquez JF, Amarnani DS, Kim LA, D'Amore PA. Retinal microangiopathy in a mouse model of inducible mural cell loss. Am J Pathol 2014;184(10):2618-26.Abstract
Diabetes can lead to vision loss because of progressive degeneration of the neurovascular unit in the retina, a condition known as diabetic retinopathy. In its early stages, the pathology is characterized by microangiopathies, including microaneurysms, microhemorrhages, and nerve layer infarcts known as cotton-wool spots. Analyses of postmortem human retinal tissue and retinas from animal models indicate that degeneration of the pericytes, which constitute the outer layer of capillaries, is an early event in diabetic retinopathy; however, the relative contribution of specific cellular components to the pathobiology of diabetic retinopathy remains to be defined. We investigated the phenotypic consequences of pericyte death on retinal microvascular integrity by using nondiabetic mice conditionally expressing a diphtheria toxin receptor in mural cells. Five days after administering diphtheria toxin in these adult mice, changes were observed in the retinal vasculature that were similar to those observed in diabetes, including microaneurysms and increased vascular permeability, suggesting that pericyte cell loss is sufficient to trigger retinal microvascular degeneration. Therapies aimed at preventing or delaying pericyte dropout may avoid or attenuate the retinal microangiopathy associated with diabetes.
Sandberg MA, Pearce EN, Harper S, Weigel-DiFranco C, Hart L, Rosner B, Berson EL. The relationship of central foveal thickness to urinary iodine concentration in retinitis pigmentosa with or without cystoid macular edema. JAMA Ophthalmol 2014;132(10):1209-14.Abstract

IMPORTANCE: Current treatments for cystoid macular edema (CME) in retinitis pigmentosa (RP) are not always effective, may lead to adverse effects, and may not restore visual acuity. The present research lays the rationale for evaluating whether an iodine supplement could reduce CME in RP. OBJECTIVE: To determine whether central foveal thickness (CFT) in the presence of CME is related to dietary iodine intake inferred from urinary iodine concentration (UIC) in nonsmoking adults with RP. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: We performed a cross-sectional observational study of 212 nonsmoking patients aged 18 to 69 years referred to our institution for RP with visual acuity of no worse than 20/200 in at least 1 eye. EXPOSURE: Retinitis pigmentosa with or without CME. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: With the eye as the unit of analysis, the relationship of log CFT measured by optical coherence tomography to UIC measured from multiple spot samples and represented as a 3-level classification variable (<100, 100-199, and ≥200 µg/L), assigning greater weight to patients with more reliable UIC estimates. RESULTS: Analyses were limited to 199 patients after excluding 11 who failed to return urine samples for measuring UIC and 2 outliers for UIC. Of the 199 patients, 36.2% had CME in 1 or both eyes. Although log CFT was inversely related to UIC based on findings from all eyes (P = .02), regression of log CFT on UIC separately for eyes with and without CME showed a strong inverse significant relationship for the former group (P < .001) and no significant relationship for the latter group (P = .66) as tested. For the eyes with CME, CFT ranged from a geometric mean of 267 µm for a median UIC of less than 100 µg/L to a geometric mean of 172 µm for a median UIC of 200 µg/L or greater. In contrast, we found no significant association between CME prevalence and UIC based on the entire sample as tested (odds ratio, 1.01 [95% CI, 0.38-2.67]; P = .99). CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: A higher UIC in nonsmoking adults with RP was significantly associated with less central foveal swelling in eyes with CME. Additional study is required to determine whether an iodine supplement can limit or reduce the extent of CME in patients with RP.

Pennock S, Haddock LJ, Mukai S, Kazlauskas A. Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Acts Primarily via Platelet-Derived Growth Factor Receptor α to Promote Proliferative Vitreoretinopathy. Am J Pathol 2014;Abstract

Proliferative vitreoretinopathy (PVR) is a nonneovascular blinding disease and the leading cause for failure in surgical repair of rhegmatogenous retinal detachments. Once formed, PVR is difficult to treat. Hence, there is an acute interest in developing approaches to prevent PVR. Of the many growth factors and cytokines that accumulate in vitreous as PVR develops, neutralizing vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) A has recently been found to prevent PVR in at least one animal model. The goal of this study was to test if Food and Drug Administration-approved agents could protect the eye from PVR in multiple animal models and to further investigate the underlying mechanisms. Neutralizing VEGF with aflibercept (VEGF Trap-Eye) safely and effectively protected rabbits from PVR in multiple models of disease. Furthermore, aflibercept reduced the bioactivity of both experimental and clinical PVR vitreous. Finally, although VEGF could promote some PVR-associated cellular responses via VEGF receptors expressed on the retinal pigment epithelial cells that drive this disease, VEGF's major contribution to vitreal bioactivity occurred via platelet-derived growth factor receptor α. Thus, VEGF promotes PVR by a noncanonical ability to engage platelet-derived growth factor receptor α. These findings indicate that VEGF contributes to nonangiogenic diseases and that anti-VEGF-based therapies may be effective on a wider spectrum of diseases than previously appreciated.

Wang S, Sengel C, Emerson MM, Cepko CL. A gene regulatory network controls the binary fate decision of rod and bipolar cells in the vertebrate retina. Dev Cell 2014;30(5):513-27.Abstract
Gene regulatory networks (GRNs) regulate critical events during development. In complex tissues, such as the mammalian central nervous system (CNS), networks likely provide the complex regulatory interactions needed to direct the specification of the many CNS cell types. Here, we dissect a GRN that regulates a binary fate decision between two siblings in the murine retina, the rod photoreceptor and bipolar interneuron. The GRN centers on Blimp1, one of the transcription factors (TFs) that regulates the rod versus bipolar cell fate decision. We identified a cis-regulatory module (CRM), B108, that mimics Blimp1 expression. Deletion of genomic B108 by CRISPR/Cas9 in vivo using electroporation abolished the function of Blimp1. Otx2 and RORβ were found to regulate Blimp1 expression via B108, and Blimp1 and Otx2 were shown to form a negative feedback loop that regulates the level of Otx2, which regulates the production of the correct ratio of rods and bipolar cells.
Paschalis EI, Eliott D, Vavvas DG. Removal of Silicone Oil From Intraocular Lens Using Novel Surgical Materials. Transl Vis Sci Technol 2014;3(5):4.Abstract

PURPOSE: To design, fabricate, and evaluate novel materials to remove silicone oil (SiO) droplets from intraocular lenses (IOL) during vitreoretinal surgery. METHODS: Three different designs were fabricated using soft lithography of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), three-dimensional (3D) inverse PDMS fabrication using water dissolvable particles, and atomic layer deposition (ALD) of alumina (Al2O3) on surgical cellulose fibers. Laboratory tests included static and dynamic contact angle (CA) measurements with water and SiO, nondestructive x-ray microcomputer tomography (micro-CT), and microscopy. SiO removal was performed in vitro and ex vivo using implantable IOLs and explanted porcine eyes. RESULTS: All designs exhibited enhanced hydrophobicity and oleophilicity. Static CA measurements with water ranged from 131° to 160° and with SiO CA approximately 0° in 120 seconds following exposure. Nondestructive x-ray analysis of the 3D PDMS showed presence of interconnected polydispersed porosity of 100 to 300 μm in diameter. SiO removal from IOLs was achieved in vitro and ex vivo using standard 20-G vitrectomy instrumentation. CONCLUSION: Removal of SiO from IOLs can be achieved using materials with lower surface energy than that of the IOLs. This can be achieved using appropriate surface chemistry and surface topography. Three designs, with enhanced hydrophobic properties, were fabricated and tested in vitro and ex vivo. All materials remove SiO within an aqueous environment. Preliminary ex vivo results were very promising, opening new possibilities for SiO removal in vitreoretinal surgeries. TRANSLATIONAL RELEVANCE: This is the first report of an instrument that can lead to successful removal of SiO from the surface of IOL. In addition to the use of this instrument/material in medicine it can also be used in the industry, for example, retrieval of oil spills from bodies of water.

Murakami Y, Notomi S, Hisatomi T, Nakazawa T, Ishibashi T, Miller JW, Vavvas DG. Photoreceptor cell death and rescue in retinal detachment and degenerations. Prog Retin Eye Res 2013;37:114-40.Abstract
Photoreceptor cell death is the ultimate cause of vision loss in various retinal disorders, including retinal detachment (RD). Photoreceptor cell death has been thought to occur mainly through apoptosis, which is the most characterized form of programmed cell death. The caspase family of cysteine proteases plays a central role for inducing apoptosis, and in experimental models of RD, dying photoreceptor cells exhibit caspase activation; however, there is a paradox that caspase inhibition alone does not provide a sufficient protection against photoreceptor cell loss, suggesting that other mechanisms of cell death are involved. Recent accumulating evidence demonstrates that non-apoptotic forms of cell death, such as autophagy and necrosis, are also regulated by specific molecular machinery, such as those mediated by autophagy-related proteins and receptor-interacting protein kinases, respectively. Here we summarize the current knowledge of cell death signaling and its roles in photoreceptor cell death after RD and other retinal degenerative diseases. A body of studies indicate that not only apoptotic but also autophagic and necrotic signaling are involved in photoreceptor cell death, and that combined targeting of these pathways may be an effective neuroprotective strategy for retinal diseases associated with photoreceptor cell loss.
Liu Y, Yang X, Utheim TP, Guo C, Xiao M, Liu Y, Yin Z, Ma J. Correlation of cytokine levels and microglial cell infiltration during retinal degeneration in RCS rats. PLoS One 2013;8(12):e82061.Abstract
Microglial cells, which are immunocompetent cells, are involved in all diseases of the central nervous system. During their activation in various diseases, a variety of soluble factors are released. In the present study, the correlation between cytokine levels and microglial cell migration in the course of retinal degeneration of Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) rats was evaluated. MFG-E8 and CD11b were used to confirm the microglial cells. In the retina of RCS rats, the mRNA expression of seven genes (MFG-E8 and its integrins αυ and ß5, CD11b and the cytokines TNF-α, IL-1ß, and MCP-1) formed almost similar bimodal peak distributions, which were centred at P7 and P45 to P60. In contrast, in rdy rats, which comprised the control group, a unimodal peak distribution centred at P14 was observed. The gene expression accompanied the activation and migration of microglial cells from the inner to the outer layer of the retina during the process of degeneration. Principal component analysis and discriminant function analysis revealed that the expression of these seven genes, especially TNF-α and CD11b, positively correlated with retinal degeneration and microglial activity during retinal degeneration in RCS rats, but not in the control rats. Furthermore, linear regression analysis demonstrated a significant correlation between the expression of these genes and the activation of microglial cells in the dystrophic retina. Our findings suggest that the suppression of microglial cells and the blockade of their cytotoxic effects may constitute a novel therapeutic strategy for treating photoreceptor death in various retinal disorders.