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Exp Eye Res. 2007 May;84(5):850-7. Epub 2007 Jan 27.

Nuclear kinesis, neurite sprouting and abnormal axonal projections of cone photoreceptors in the aged and AMD-afflicted human retina.

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  • 1School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia.


Tissues often respond to damage by recapitulating developmental programs. We have investigated whether anatomical signs of developmental recapitulation are evident in cone photoreceptors of the aged and AMD-afflicted human retina. Radial migration of cell nuclei mediated by microtubules is a characteristic feature of cells in the developing retina. Similarly, neurite outgrowth is a feature of developing neurons. We have examined whether nuclear kinesis and neurite outgrowth from cone photoreceptors is evident. Calbindin-positive cone photoreceptor nuclei are normally positioned as a single layer of somata at the outer border of the outer nuclear layer. In AMD-afflicted retinae, many nuclei are translocated, with some somata abutting the outer plexiform layer (OPL) and others outside the outer limiting membrane whilst many nuclei are present at intermediate levels. The axonal processes of many cones were also aberrant, displaying tortuous pathways as they projected to the OPL, with occasional evidence for bifurcation at points where the axon changed direction. We suggest that tangential extension of collateral neurites and the rapid retraction of the original process may give rise to the tortuous axonal projections observed. Since microtubules are key mediators of both neurite extension and nuclear kinesis we examined expression of microtubule associated protein 2 (MAP2) which is an important regulator of neurite extension. The strong expression of MAP2 observed in those cells with aberrant morphologies supports the notion that abnormal microtubule-mediated remodelling events are present in the AMD retina and to a lesser extent in normal aged retinas, allowing cone photoreceptors to recapitulate two key features of development.

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