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J Neurosci. 2013 Jun 12;33(24):9890-904. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1099-13.2013.

Loss of Otx2 in the adult retina disrupts retinal pigment epithelium function, causing photoreceptor degeneration.

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Institut de Biologie Valrose, University of Nice Sophia Antipolis, UFR Sciences, Nice F-06108, France.

Erratum in

  • J Neurosci. 2014 Apr 16;34(16):5732.


Photoreceptors are specialized neurons of the retina that receive nursing from the adjacent retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). Frequent in the elderly, photoreceptor loss can originate from primary dysfunction of either cell type. Despite intense interest in the etiology of these diseases, early molecular actors of late-onset photoreceptor degeneration remain elusive, mostly because of the lack of dedicated models. Conditional Otx2 ablation in the adult mouse retina elicits photoreceptor degeneration, providing a new model of late-onset neuronal disease. Here, we use this model to identify the earliest events after Otx2 ablation. Electroretinography and gene expression analyses suggest a nonautonomous, RPE-dependent origin for photoreceptor degeneration. This is confirmed by RPE-specific ablation of Otx2, which results in similar photoreceptor degeneration. In contrast, constitutive Otx2 expression in RPE cells prevents degeneration of photoreceptors in Otx2-ablated retinas. We use chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by massive sequencing (ChIP-seq) analysis to identify the molecular network controlled in vivo by Otx2 in RPE cells. We uncover four RPE-specific functions coordinated by Otx2 that underpin the cognate photoreceptor degeneration. Many direct Otx2 target genes are associated with human retinopathies, emphasizing the significance of the model. Importantly, we report a secondary genetic response after Otx2 ablation, which largely precedes apoptosis of photoreceptors, involving inflammation and stress genes. These findings thus provide novel general markers for clinical detection and prevention of neuronal cell death.

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