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Saumya Nagar, Dorit Trudler, Scott R. McKercher, Juan Piña-Crespo, Nobuki Nakanishi, Shu-Ichi Okamoto, Stuart A. Lipton; Molecular Pathway to Protection From Age-Dependent Photoreceptor Degeneration in Mef2 Deficiency. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2017;58(9):3741-3749. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/iovs.17-21767.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Photoreceptor degeneration in the retina is a major cause of blindness in humans. Elucidating mechanisms of degenerative and neuroprotective pathways in photoreceptors should afford identification and development of therapeutic strategies.
We used mouse genetic models and improved methods for retinal explant cultures. Retinas were enucleated from Mef2d+/+ and Mef2d−/− mice, stained for MEF2 proteins and outer nuclear layer thickness, and assayed for apoptotic cells. Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assays revealed MEF2 binding, and RT-qPCR showed levels of transcription factors. We used AAV2 and electroporation to express genes in retinal explants and electroretinograms to assess photoreceptor functionality.
We identify a prosurvival MEF2D-PGC1α pathway that plays a neuroprotective role in photoreceptors. We demonstrate that Mef2d−/− mouse retinas manifest decreased expression of PGC1α and increased photoreceptor cell loss, resulting in the absence of light responses. Molecular repletion of PGC1α protects Mef2d−/− photoreceptors and preserves light responsivity.
These results suggest that the MEF2-PGC1α cascade may represent a new therapeutic target for drugs designed to protect photoreceptors from developmental- and age-dependent loss.
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