Restoration of cone vision in the CNGA3-/- mouse model of congenital complete lack of cone photoreceptor function.
ABSTRACT: Congenital absence of cone photoreceptor function is associated with strongly impaired daylight vision and loss of color discrimination in human achromatopsia. Here, we introduce viral gene replacement therapy as a potential treatment for this disease in the CNGA3(-/-) mouse model. We show that such therapy can restore cone-specific visual processing in the central nervous system even if cone photoreceptors had been nonfunctional from birth. The restoration of cone vision was assessed at different stages along the visual pathway. Treated CNGA3(-/-) mice were able to generate cone photoreceptor responses and to transfer these signals to bipolar cells. In support, we found morphologically that treated cones expressed regular cyclic nucleotide-gated (CNG) channel complexes and opsins in outer segments, which previously they did not. Moreover, expression of CNGA3 normalized cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) levels in cones, delayed cone cell death and reduced the inflammatory response of Müller glia cells that is typical of retinal degenerations. Furthermore, ganglion cells from treated, but not from untreated, CNGA3(-/-) mice displayed cone-driven, light-evoked, spiking activity, indicating that signals generated in the outer retina are transmitted to the brain. Finally, we demonstrate that this newly acquired sensory information was translated into cone-mediated, vision-guided behavior.
Project description:The cone cyclic nucleotide-gated (CNG) channel is essential for central and color vision and visual acuity. This channel is composed of two structurally related subunits, CNGA3 and CNGB3; CNGA3 is the ion-conducting subunit, whereas CNGB3 is a modulatory subunit. Mutations in both subunits are associated with achromatopsia and progressive cone dystrophy, with mutations in CNGB3 alone accounting for 50% of all known cases of achromatopsia. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying cone diseases that result from CNGB3 deficiency are unknown. This study investigated the role of CNGB3 in cones, using CNGB3(-/-) mice. Cone dysfunction was apparent at the earliest time point examined (post-natal day 30) in CNGB3(-/-) mice. When compared with wild-type (WT) controls: photopic electroretingraphic (ERG) responses were decreased by approximately 75%, whereas scotopic ERG responses were unchanged; visual acuity was decreased by approximately 20%, whereas contrast sensitivity was unchanged; cone density was reduced by approximately 40%; photoreceptor apoptosis was detected; and outer segment disorganization was observed in some cones. Notably, CNGA3 protein and mRNA levels were significantly decreased in CNGB3(-/-) mice; in contrast, mRNA levels of S-opsin, Gnat2 and Pde6c were unchanged, relative to WT mice. Hence, we show that loss of CNGB3 reduces biosynthesis of CNGA3 and impairs cone CNG channel function. We suggest that down-regulation of CNGA3 contributes to the pathogenic mechanism by which CNGB3 mutations lead to human cone disease.
Project description:Cone vision mediated by photoreceptor cyclic nucleotide-gated (CNG) channel activation is essential for central and color vision and visual acuity. Mutations in genes encoding the cone CNG channel subunits, CNGA3 and CNGB3, have been linked to various forms of achromatopsia and progressive cone dystrophy in humans. This study investigates the biochemical components of native cone CNG channels, using the cone-dominant retina in mice deficient in the transcription factor neural retina leucine zipper (Nrl). Abundant expression of CNGA3 and CNGB3 but no rod CNG channel expression was detected in Nrl-/- retina by western blotting and immunolabeling. Localization of cone CNG channel in both blue (S)- and red/green (M)-cones was shown by double immunolabeling using antibodies against the channel subunits and against the S- and M-opsins. Immunolabeling also showed co-localization of CNGA3 and CNGB3 in the mouse retina. Co-immunoprecipitation demonstrated the direct interaction between CNGA3 and CNGB3. Chemical cross-linking readily generated products at sizes consistent with oligomers of the channel complexes ranging from dimeric to tetrameric complexes, in a concentration- and time-dependent pattern. Thus this work provides the first biochemical evidence showing the inter-subunit interaction between CNGA3 and CNGB3 and the presence of heterotetrameric complexes of the native cone CNG channel in retina. No association between CNGA3 and the cone Na(+)/Ca(2+)-K(+) exchanger (NCKX2) was shown by co-immunoprecipitation and chemical cross-linking. This may implicate a distinct modulatory mechanism for Ca(2+) homeostasis in cones compared to rods.
Project description:We assessed a large consanguineous Pakistani family (PKAB157) segregating early onset low vision problems. Funduscopic and electroretinographic evaluation of affected individuals revealed juvenile cone-rod dystrophy (CRD) with maculopathy. Other clinical symptoms included loss of color discrimination, photophobia and nystagmus. Whole-exome sequencing, segregation and haplotype analyses demonstrated that a transition variant (c.955T>C; p.(Cys319Arg)) in CNGA3 co-segregated with the CRD phenotype in family PKAB157. The ability of CNGA3 channel to influx calcium in response to agonist, when expressed either alone or together with the wild-type CNGB3 subunit in HEK293 cells, was completely abolished due to p.Cys319Arg variant. Western blotting and immunolocalization studies suggest that a decreased channel density in the HEK293 cell membrane due to impaired folding and/or trafficking of the CNGA3 protein is the main pathogenic effect of the p.Cys319Arg variant. Mutant alleles of the human cone photoreceptor cyclic nucleotide-gated channel (CNGA3) are frequently associated with achromatopsia. In rare cases, variants in CNGA3 are also associated with cone dystrophy, Leber's congenital amaurosis and oligo cone trichromacy. The identification of predicted p.(Cys319Arg) missense variant in CNGA3 expands the repertoire of the known genetic causes of CRD and phenotypic spectrum of CNGA3 alleles.
Project description:We recently showed that mutations in the CNGA3 gene encoding the alpha-subunit of the cone photoreceptor cGMP-gated channel cause autosomal recessive complete achromatopsia linked to chromosome 2q11. We now report the results of a first comprehensive screening for CNGA3 mutations in a cohort of 258 additional independent families with hereditary cone photoreceptor disorders. CNGA3 mutations were detected not only in patients with the complete form of achromatopsia but also in incomplete achromats with residual cone photoreceptor function and (rarely) in patients with evidence for severe progressive cone dystrophy. In total, mutations were identified in 53 independent families comprising 38 new CNGA3 mutations, in addition to the 8 mutations reported elsewhere. Apparently, both mutant alleles were identified in 47 families, including 16 families with presumed homozygous mutations and 31 families with two heterozygous mutations. Single heterozygous mutations were identified in six additional families. The majority of all known CNGA3 mutations (39/46) are amino acid substitutions compared with only four stop-codon mutations, two 1-bp insertions and one 3-bp in-frame deletion. The missense mutations mostly affect amino acids conserved among the members of the cyclic nucleotide gated (CNG) channel family and cluster at the cytoplasmic face of transmembrane domains (TM) S1 and S2, in TM S4, and in the cGMP-binding domain. Several mutations were identified recurrently (e.g., R277C, R283W, R436W, and F547L). These four mutations account for 41.8% of all detected mutant CNGA3 alleles. Haplotype analysis suggests that the R436W and F547L mutant alleles have multiple origins, whereas we found evidence that the R283W alleles, which are particularly frequent among patients from Scandinavia and northern Italy, have a common origin.
Project description:The CNGA3(-/-)/Nrl(-/-) mouse is a cone-dominant model with Cnga3 channel deficiency, which partially mimics the all cone foveal structure of human achromatopsia 2 with CNGA3 mutations. Although subretinal (SR) AAV vector administration can transfect retinal cells efficiently, the injection-induced retinal detachment can cause retinal damage, particularly when SR vector bleb includes the fovea. We therefore explored whether cone function-structure could be rescued in CNGA3(-/-)/Nrl(-/-) mice by intravitreal (IVit) delivery of tyrosine to phenylalanine (Y-F) capsid mutant AAV8. We find that AAV-mediated CNGA3 expression can restore cone function and rescue structure following IVit delivery of AAV8 (Y447, 733F) vector. Rescue was assessed by restoration of the cone-mediated electroretinogram (ERG), optomotor responses, and cone opsin immunohistochemistry. Demonstration of gene therapy in a cone-dominant mouse model by IVit delivery provides a potential alternative vector delivery mode for safely transducing foveal cones in achromatopsia patients and in other human retinal diseases affecting foveal function.
Project description:The cone photoreceptor cyclic nucleotide-gated (CNG) channel is essential for central and color vision and visual acuity. Mutations in the channel subunits CNGA3 and CNGB3 are associated with achromatopsia and cone dystrophy. We investigated the gene expression profiles in mouse retina with CNG channel deficiency on a cone-dominant background, i.e., CNGA3-/-/Nrl-/- and CNGB3-/-/Nrl-/- mice, relative to Nrl-/- mice. Total RNA was isolated from 2 retinas per animal (CNGA3-/-/Nrl-/-, CNGB3-/-/Nrl-/-, and Nrl-/- mice). The background strain for these mutations was C57bl/6.
Project description:Mutations in CNGA3 and CNGB3, the genes encoding the subunits of the tetrameric cone photoreceptor cyclic nucleotide-gated ion channel, cause achromatopsia, a congenital retinal disorder characterized by loss of cone function. However, a small number of patients carrying the CNGB3/c.1208G>A;p.R403Q mutation present with a variable retinal phenotype ranging from complete and incomplete achromatopsia to moderate cone dysfunction or progressive cone dystrophy. By exploring a large patient cohort and published cases, we identified 16 unrelated individuals who were homozygous or (compound-)heterozygous for the CNGB3/c.1208G>A;p.R403Q mutation. In-depth genetic and clinical analysis revealed a co-occurrence of a mutant CNGA3 allele in a high proportion of these patients (10 of 16), likely contributing to the disease phenotype. To verify these findings, we generated a Cngb3R403Q/R403Q mouse model, which was crossbred with Cnga3-deficient (Cnga3-/-) mice to obtain triallelic Cnga3+/- Cngb3R403Q/R403Q mutants. As in human subjects, there was a striking genotype-phenotype correlation, since the presence of 1 Cnga3-null allele exacerbated the cone dystrophy phenotype in Cngb3R403Q/R403Q mice. These findings strongly suggest a digenic and triallelic inheritance pattern in a subset of patients with achromatopsia/severe cone dystrophy linked to the CNGB3/p.R403Q mutation, with important implications for diagnosis, prognosis, and genetic counseling.
Project description:The cone photoreceptor cyclic nucleotide-gated (CNG) channel is essential for central and color vision and visual acuity. Mutations in the channel subunits CNGA3 and CNGB3 are associated with achromatopsia and cone dystrophy. We investigated the gene expression profiles in mouse retina with CNG channel deficiency using whole genome expression microarrays. As cones comprise only 2 to 3% of the total photoreceptor population in the wild-type mouse retina, the mouse lines with CNG channel deficiency on a cone-dominant background, i.e. Cnga3-/-/Nrl-/- and Cngb3-/-/Nrl-/- mice, were used in our study. Comparative data analysis revealed a total of 105 genes altered in Cnga3-/-/Nrl-/- and 92 in Cngb3-/-/Nrl-/- retinas, relative to Nrl-/- retinas, with 27 genes changed in both genotypes. The differentially expressed genes primarily encode proteins associated with cell signaling, cellular function maintenance and gene expression. Ingenuity pathway analysis (IPA) identified 26 and 9 canonical pathways in Cnga3-/-/Nrl-/- and Cngb3-/-/Nrl-/- retinas, respectively, with 6 pathways being shared. The shared pathways include phototransduction, cAMP/PKA-mediated signaling, endothelin signaling, and EIF2/endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, whereas the IL-1, CREB, and purine metabolism signaling were found to specifically associate with Cnga3 deficiency. Thus, CNG channel deficiency differentially regulates genes that affect cell processes such as phototransduction, cellular survival and gene expression, and such regulations play a crucial role(s) in the retinal adaptation to impaired cone phototransduction. Though lack of Cnga3 and Cngb3 shares many common pathways, deficiency of Cnga3 causes more significant alterations in gene expression. This work provides insights into how cones respond to impaired phototransduction at the gene expression levels.
Project description:Cyclic nucleotide-gated (CNG) channels play a pivotal role in phototransduction. Mutations in the cone CNG channel subunits CNGA3 and CNGB3 account for >70% of all known cases of achromatopsia. Cones degenerate in achromatopsia patients and in CNGA3(-/-) and CNGB3(-/-) mice. This work investigates the molecular basis of cone degeneration in CNG channel deficiency. As cones comprise only 2-3% of the total photoreceptor population in the wild-type mouse retina, we generated mouse lines with CNG channel deficiency on a cone-dominant background, i.e. CNGA3(-/-)/Nrl(-/-) and CNGB3(-/-)/Nrl(-/-) mice. The retinal phenotype and potential cell death pathways were examined by functional, biochemical, and immunohistochemical approaches. CNGA3(-/-)/Nrl(-/-) and CNGB3(-/-)/Nrl(-/-) mice showed impaired cone function, opsin mislocalization, and cone degeneration similar to that in the single knock-out mice. The endoplasmic reticulum stress marker proteins, including Grp78/Bip, phospho-eIF2?, phospho-IP(3)R, and CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein homologous protein, were elevated significantly in CNGA3(-/-)/Nrl(-/-) and CNGB3(-/-)/Nrl(-/-) retinas, compared with the age-matched (postnatal 30 days) Nrl(-/-) controls. Along with these, up-regulation of the cysteine protease calpains and cleavage of caspase-12 and caspase-7 were found in the channel-deficient retinas, suggesting an endoplasmic reticulum stress-associated apoptosis. In addition, we observed a nuclear translocation of apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF) and endonuclease G in CNGA3(-/-)/Nrl(-/-) and CNGB3(-/-)/Nrl(-/-) retinas, implying a mitochondrial insult in the endoplasmic reticulum stress-activated cell death process. Taken together, our findings suggest a crucial role of endoplasmic reticulum stress in cone degeneration associated with CNG channel deficiency.
Project description:Gene therapy trials for inherited photoreceptor disorders are planned. Anatomical metrics to select the best candidates and outcomes are needed. Adaptive optics (AO) imaging enables visualization of photoreceptor structure, although analytical tools are lacking. Here we present criteria to assess residual photoreceptor integrity in achromatopsia (ACHM).Two AOSLOs, at the Medical College of Wisconsin and Moorfields Eye Hospital, were used to image the photoreceptor mosaic of 11 subjects with ACHM and 7 age-matched controls. Images were obtained, processed, and montaged using previously described methods. Cone density and reflectivity were quantified to assess residual cone photoreceptor structure.All subjects with ACHM had reduced numbers of cone photoreceptors, albeit to a variable degree. In addition, the relative cone reflectivity varied greatly. Interestingly, subjects with GNAT2-associated ACHM had the greatest number of residual cones and the reflectivity of those cones was significantly greater than that of the cones in the subjects with CNGA3/CNGB3-associated ACHM.We present cone reflectivity as a metric that can be used to characterize cone structure in ACHM. This method may be applicable to subjects with other cone disorders. In ACHM, we hypothesize that cone numerosity (and/or density) combined with cone reflectivity could be used to gauge the therapeutic potential. As gene replacement would not be expected to add cones, reflectivity could be a more powerful AO-metric for monitoring the cellular response to treatment and could provide a more immediate indicator of efficacy than behavioral measures, which may take longer to change.