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Genes Dev. 2012 Apr 15;26(8):816-29. doi: 10.1101/gad.184481.111. Epub 2012 Mar 30.

Endosomal sorting by Semaphorin 4A in retinal pigment epithelium supports photoreceptor survival.

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  • 1World Premier International Immunology Frontier Research Center, Osaka University, Suita, Osaka, Japan. toyofuku@imed3.med.osaka-u.ac.jp


Photoreceptor cell death is the hallmark of a group of human inherited retinal degeneration. Although the causative genetic mutations are often known, the mechanisms leading to photoreceptor degeneration remain poorly defined. Here, we show that Semaphorin 4A (Sema4A), a member of axonal guidance molecule semaphorin, plays a role in Rab11/FIP2-mediated endosomal sorting in retinal pigment epithelial cells to support photoreceptor function. In response to oxidative stress, Sema4A switches the endosomal sorting of the lysosomal precursor protein prosaposin from the lysosome to the exosomal release, which prevents light-induced photoreceptor apoptosis. In the absence of oxidative stress, Sema4A sorts retinoid-binding proteins with retinoids between the cell surface and endoplasmic reticulum, by which 11-cis-retinal, a chromophore for phototransduction, is regenerated and transported back to photoreceptors. Owing to defects in these processes, Sema4A-deficient mice exhibit marked photoreceptor degeneration. Our findings therefore indicate that Sema4A regulates two distinct endosomal-sorting pathways that are critical for photoreceptor survival and phototransduction during the transition between daylight and darkness.

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