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J Neurobiol. 1997 Jun 5;32(6):593-612.

Aberrant expression of c-Fos accompanies photoreceptor cell death in the rd mouse.

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Department of Pathology, University of Southern California School of Medicine, Los Angeles 90033, USA.


Selective degeneration of rod photoreceptor cells in the retinal degenerative (rd) mouse prior to their complete maturation is thought to result from elevated cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) levels owing to the inherited defect in cGMP-phosphodiesterase. To investigate potential signaling pathways which might lead to apoptotic death of photoreceptors in the rd retina, the expression of immediate-early genes (IEG) of the activating protein-1 transcription factor (AP-1) family was examined. Increasing numbers of apoptotic photoreceptor nuclei were observed in the outer nuclear layer of the rd mouse beginning at postnatal day (P) 10. The peak incidence of apoptotic cells was observed at P13; by P16, almost the entire population of photoreceptors had been lost. Although c-Fos-like immunoreactivity was absent in photoreceptors of normal retinas, we observed that commencing at around P10, increasing numbers of rod photoreceptors in the rd retina exhibited nuclear staining for c-Fos protein. While no change in the distribution patterns of other members of the AP-1 family (c-Jun, JunB, and JunD) was observed in photoreceptors, Müller cell nuclei were transiently immunoreactive for c-Jun on P11. The incidence of c-Fos-positive photoreceptors peaked sharply at P12, 1 day earlier than the peak in apoptosis. Furthermore, the population of c-Fos-positive photoreceptors was distinct from apoptotic photoreceptors exhibiting chromatin condensation. The aberrant expression of c-Fos protein in rod photoreceptors immediately prior to their death in the rd mouse raises the possibility that c-Fos may be directly or indirectly involved in triggering the apoptotic cascade. Furthermore, the additional finding of c-Jun induction in Müller glia suggests that the IEG response to photoreceptor degeneration involves both intra- and intercellular signal transduction pathways.

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