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Cell Death Differ. 2015 Mar;22(3):476-87. doi: 10.1038/cdd.2014.203. Epub 2014 Dec 12.

Lysosomal membrane permeabilization and autophagy blockade contribute to photoreceptor cell death in a mouse model of retinitis pigmentosa.

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Autophagy Lab, Department of Cellular and Molecular Biology, Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas, CSIC, Ramiro de Maetzu 9, Madrid 28040, Spain.
3D Lab, Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas, CSIC, Ramiro de Maetzu 9, Madrid 28040, Spain.


Retinitis pigmentosa is a group of hereditary retinal dystrophies that normally result in photoreceptor cell death and vision loss both in animal models and in affected patients. The rd10 mouse, which carries a missense mutation in the Pde6b gene, has been used to characterize the underlying pathophysiology and develop therapies for this devastating and incurable disease. Here we show that increased photoreceptor cell death in the rd10 mouse retina is associated with calcium overload and calpain activation, both of which are observed before the appearance of signs of cell degeneration. These changes are accompanied by an increase in the activity of the lysosomal protease cathepsin B in the cytoplasm of photoreceptor cells, and a reduced colocalization of cathepsin B with lysosomal markers, suggesting that lysosomal membrane permeabilization occurs before the peak of cell death. Moreover, expression of the autophagosomal marker LC3-II (lipidated form of LC3) is reduced and autophagy flux is blocked in rd10 retinas before the onset of photoreceptor cell death. Interestingly, we found that cell death is increased by the induction of autophagy with rapamycin and inhibited by calpain and cathepsin inhibitors, both ex vivo and in vivo. Taken together, these data suggest that calpain-mediated lysosomal membrane permeabilization underlies the lysosomal dysfunction and downregulation of autophagy associated with photoreceptor cell death.

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