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S. Cottet, S. Métrailler, S. Hamann, D. F. Schorderet; Bax-Induced Apoptosis in Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis: A Dual Role in Rod and Cone Degeneration. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2009;50(13):4462.
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We previously observed that anti- and pro-apoptotic genes of the Bcl-2 family were differentially expressed during the development of LCA in the Rpe65-/- mouse model (Cottet et al. 2006). Moreover, we reported that activation and translocation of pro-apoptotic Bax to the mitochondria was associated with apoptosis of rod photoreceptors as the disease progressed (Cottet et al. 2008). In this study we challenged whether disruption of the pro-apoptotic pro-apoptotic Bax protein is sufficient to protect photoreceptor cells against apoptosis.
Apoptosis of photoreceptor cells was addressed by TUNEL assay on flatmounted retinas. Counting of the rod nuclei within the ONL was performed following hematoxylin/eosin histological staining of retina sections. Expression level and localization of photoreceptor gene markers were assessed by quantitative PCR and immunohistological analyses.
While expression of rod photoreceptor genes was decreased in Rpe65-deficient retina, expression level remained unchanged in Rpe65-/- / Bax-/- mice. Moreover, OS dysorganization and shortening as well as decrease in ONL thickness observed in diseased retina were prevented in mice lacking functional Bax protein. TUNEL assay confirmed that Bax-dependent rod photoreceptor apoptosis was abolished in Rpe65-/- / Bax-/- mice. However, early and fast degeneration of cone cells was not prevented in Rpe65-/- / Bax-/- mice, indicating that Bax-induced apoptotic pathway was not involved in the degenerating process of cones in Rpe65-deficient retina.
Altogether, these data show for the first time that a single genetic mutation can trigger two independent apoptotic pathways in rod and cone photoreceptors in LCA disease. While pro-apoptotic Bax is essential to trigger rod photoreceptor apoptosis, early degeneration of cones is not dependent on Bax-mediated apoptotic pathway in Rpe65-deficientmice.
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