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J Neurosci. 2012 Jan 11;32(2):528-41. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3591-11.2012.

Preservation of cone photoreceptors after a rapid yet transient degeneration and remodeling in cone-only Nrl-/- mouse retina.

Author information

1
Neurobiology-Neurodegeneration and Repair Laboratory, National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.

Abstract

Cone photoreceptors are the primary initiator of visual transduction in the human retina. Dysfunction or death of rod photoreceptors precedes cone loss in many retinal and macular degenerative diseases, suggesting a rod-dependent trophic support for cone survival. Rod differentiation and homeostasis are dependent on the basic motif leucine zipper transcription factor neural retina leucine zipper (NRL). The loss of Nrl (Nrl(-/-)) in mice results in a retina with predominantly S-opsin-containing cones that exhibit molecular and functional characteristics of wild-type cones. Here, we report that Nrl(-/-) retina undergoes a rapid but transient period of degeneration in early adulthood, with cone apoptosis, retinal detachment, alterations in retinal vessel structure, and activation and translocation of retinal microglia. However, cone degeneration stabilizes by 4 months of age, resulting in a thinner but intact outer nuclear layer with residual cones expressing S- and M-opsins and a preserved photopic electroretinogram. At this stage, microglia translocate back to the inner retina and reacquire a quiescent morphology. Gene profiling analysis during the period of transient degeneration reveals misregulation of genes related to stress response and inflammation, implying their involvement in cone death. The Nrl(-/-) mouse illustrates the long-term viability of cones in the absence of rods and retinal pigment epithelium defects in a rodless retina. We propose that Nrl(-/-) retina may serve as a model for elucidating mechanisms of cone homeostasis and degeneration that would be relevant to understanding diseases of the cone-dominant human macula.

PMID:
22238088
PMCID:
PMC3567450
DOI:
10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3591-11.2012
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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