The Musashi 1 Controls the Splicing of Photoreceptor-Specific Exons in the Vertebrate Retina.
ABSTRACT: Alternative pre-mRNA splicing expands the coding capacity of eukaryotic genomes, potentially enabling a limited number of genes to govern the development of complex anatomical structures. Alternative splicing is particularly prevalent in the vertebrate nervous system, where it is required for neuronal development and function. Here, we show that photoreceptor cells, a type of sensory neuron, express a characteristic splicing program that affects a broad set of transcripts and is initiated prior to the development of the light sensing outer segments. Surprisingly, photoreceptors lack prototypical neuronal splicing factors and their splicing profile is driven to a significant degree by the Musashi 1 (MSI1) protein. A striking feature of the photoreceptor splicing program are exons that display a "switch-like" pattern of high inclusion levels in photoreceptors and near complete exclusion outside of the retina. Several ubiquitously expressed genes that are involved in the biogenesis and function of primary cilia produce highly photoreceptor specific isoforms through use of such "switch-like" exons. Our results suggest a potential role for alternative splicing in the development of photoreceptors and the conversion of their primary cilia to the light sensing outer segments.
Project description:Vertebrate photoreceptors have a modified cilium composed of a basal body, axoneme and outer segment. The outer segment includes stacked membrane discs, containing opsin and the signal transduction apparatus mediating phototransduction. In photoreceptors, two distinct classes of vesicles are trafficked. Synaptic vesicles are transported down the axon to the synapse, whereas opsin-containing vesicles are transported to the outer segment. The continuous replacement of the outer segments imposes a significant biosynthetic and trafficking burden on the photoreceptors. Here, we show that Ahi1, a gene that when mutated results in the neurodevelopmental disorder, Joubert syndrome (JBTS), is required for photoreceptor sensory cilia formation and the development of photoreceptor outer segments. In mice with a targeted deletion of Ahi1, photoreceptors undergo early degeneration. Whereas synaptic proteins are correctly trafficked, photoreceptor outer segment proteins fail to be transported appropriately or are significantly reduced in their expression levels (i.e., transducin and Rom1) in Ahi1(-/-) mice. We show that vesicular targeting defects in Ahi1(-/-) mice are cilium specific, and our evidence suggests that the defects are caused by a decrease in expression of the small GTPase Rab8a, a protein required for accurate polarized vesicular trafficking. Thus, our results suggest that Ahi1 plays a role in stabilizing the outer segment proteins, transducin and Rom1, and that Ahi1 is an important component of Rab8a-mediated vesicular trafficking in photoreceptors. The retinal degeneration observed in Ahi1(-/-) mice recapitulates aspects of the retinal phenotype observed in patients with JBTS and suggests the importance of Ahi1 in photoreceptor function.
Project description:Specification and development of the apical membrane in epithelial cells requires the function of polarity proteins, including Pard3 and an atypical protein kinase C (PrkC). Many epithelial cells possess microtubule-based organelles, known as cilia, that project from their apical surface and the membrane surrounding the cilium is contiguous with the apical cell membrane. Although cilia formation in cultured cells required Pard3, the in vivo requirement for Pard3 in cilia development remains unknown. The vertebrate photoreceptor outer segment represents a highly specialized cilia structure in which to identify factors necessary for apical and ciliary membrane formation. Pard3 and PrkC localized to distinct domains within vertebrate photoreceptors. Using partial morpholino knockdown, photo-morpholinos, and pharmacological approaches, the function of Pard3 and PrkC were found to be required for the formation of both the apical and ciliary membrane of vertebrate photoreceptors. Inhibition of Pard3 or PrkC activity significantly reduced the size of photoreceptor outer segments and resulted in mislocalization of rhodopsin. Suppression of Pard3 or PrkC also led to a reduction in cilia size and cilia number in Kupffer's Vesicle, which resulted in left-right asymmetry defects. Thus, the Par-PrkC complex functions in cilia formation in vivo and this likely reflects a general role in specifying non-ciliary and ciliary compartments of the apical domain.
Project description:Ciliopathies lead to multiorgan pathologies that include renal cysts, deafness, obesity and retinal degeneration. Retinal photoreceptors have connecting cilia joining the inner and outer segment that are responsible for transport of molecules to develop and maintain the outer segment process. The present study evaluated meckelin (MKS3) expression during outer segment genesis and determined the consequences of mutant meckelin on photoreceptor development and survival in Wistar polycystic kidney disease Wpk/Wpk rat using immunohistochemistry, analysis of cell death and electron microscopy. MKS3 was ubiquitously expressed throughout the retina at postnatal day 10 (P10) and P21. However, in the mature retina, MKS3 expression was restricted to photoreceptors and the retinal ganglion cell layer. At P10, both the wild type and homozygous Wpk mutant retina had all retinal cell types. In contrast, by P21, cells expressing rod- and cone-specific markers were fewer in number and expression of opsins appeared to be abnormally localized to the cell body. Cell death analyses were consistent with the disappearance of photoreceptor-specific markers and showed that the cells were undergoing caspase-dependent cell death. By electron microscopy, P10 photoreceptors showed rudimentary outer segments with an axoneme, but did not develop outer segment discs that were clearly present in the wild type counterpart. At p21 the mutant outer segments appeared much the same as the P10 mutant outer segments with only a short axoneme, while the wild-type controls had developed outer segments with many well-organized discs. We conclude that MKS3 is not important for formation of connecting cilium and rudimentary outer segments, but is critical for the maturation of outer segment processes.
Project description:Photoreceptors are polarized neurons, with very specific subcellular compartmentalization and unique requirements for protein expression and trafficking. Each photoreceptor contains an outer segment, the site of photon capture that initiates vision, an inner segment that houses the biosynthetic machinery and a synaptic terminal for signal transmission to downstream neurons. Outer segments and inner segments are connected by a connecting cilium (CC), the equivalent of a transition zone (TZ) of primary cilia. The connecting cilium is part of the basal body/axoneme backbone that stabilizes the outer segment. This report will update the reader on late developments in photoreceptor ciliogenesis and transition zone formation, specifically in mouse photoreceptors, focusing on early events in photoreceptor ciliogenesis. The connecting cilium, an elongated and narrow structure through which all outer segment proteins and membrane components must traffic, functions as a gate that controls access to the outer segment. Here we will review genes and their protein products essential for basal body maturation and for CC/TZ genesis, sorted by phenotype. Emphasis is given to naturally occurring mouse mutants and gene knockouts that interfere with CC/TZ formation and ciliogenesis.
Project description:The mutations that cause Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) lead to photoreceptor cell death at an early age, causing childhood blindness. To unravel the molecular basis of LCA, we analyzed how mutations in LCA5 affect the connectivity of the encoded protein lebercilin at the interactome level. In photoreceptors, lebercilin is uniquely localized at the cilium that bridges the inner and outer segments. Using a generally applicable affinity proteomics approach, we showed that lebercilin specifically interacted with the intraflagellar transport (IFT) machinery in HEK293T cells. This interaction disappeared when 2 human LCA-associated lebercilin mutations were introduced, implicating a specific disruption of IFT-dependent protein transport, an evolutionarily conserved basic mechanism found in all cilia. Lca5 inactivation in mice led to partial displacement of opsins and light-induced translocation of arrestin from photoreceptor outer segments. This was consistent with a defect in IFT at the connecting cilium, leading to failure of proper outer segment formation and subsequent photoreceptor degeneration. These data suggest that lebercilin functions as an integral element of selective protein transport through photoreceptor cilia and provide a molecular demonstration that disrupted IFT can lead to LCA.
Project description:Mutations in the gene ARL13B cause the classical form of Joubert syndrome, an autosomal recessive ciliopathy with variable degrees of retinal degeneration. As second-site modifier alleles can contribute to retinal pathology in ciliopathies, animal models provide a unique platform to test how genetic interactions modulate specific phenotypes. In this study, we analyzed the zebrafish arl13b mutant for retinal degeneration and for epistatic relationships with the planar cell polarity protein (PCP) component vangl2.Photoreceptor and cilia structure was examined by light and electron microscopy. Immunohistochemistry was performed to examine ciliary markers. Genetic interactions were tested by pairwise crosses of heterozygous animals. Genetic mosaic animals were generated by blastula transplantation and analyzed by fluorescence microscopy.At 5 days after fertilization, photoreceptor outer segments were shorter in zebrafish arl13b-/- mutants compared to wild-type larvae, no overt signs of retinal degeneration were observed by light or electron microscopy. Starting at 14 days after fertilization (dpf) and continuing through 30 dpf, cells lacking Arl13b died following transplantation into wild-type host animals. Photoreceptors of arl13b-/-;vangl2-/- mutants were more compromised than the photoreceptors of single mutants. Finally, when grown within a wild-type retina, the vangl2-/- mutant cone photoreceptors displayed normal basal body positioning.We show that arl13b-/- mutants have shortened cilia and photoreceptor outer segments and exhibit a slow, progressive photoreceptor degeneration that occurs over weeks. The data suggest that loss of Arl13b leads to slow photoreceptor degeneration, but can be exacerbated by the loss of vangl2. Importantly, the data show that Arl13b can genetically and physically interact with Vangl2 and this association is important for normal photoreceptor structure. The loss of vangl2, however, does not affect basal body positioning.
Project description:Transplantation of rod photoreceptors, derived either from neonatal retinae or pluripotent stem cells (PSCs), can restore rod-mediated visual function in murine models of inherited blindness. However, humans depend more upon cone photoreceptors that are required for daylight, color, and high-acuity vision. Indeed, macular retinopathies involving loss of cones are leading causes of blindness. An essential step for developing stem cell-based therapies for maculopathies is the ability to generate transplantable human cones from renewable sources. Here, we report a modified 2D/3D protocol for generating hPSC-derived neural retinal vesicles with well-formed ONL-like structures containing cones and rods bearing inner segments and connecting cilia, nascent outer segments, and presynaptic structures. This differentiation system recapitulates human photoreceptor development, allowing the isolation and transplantation of a pure population of stage-matched cones. Purified human long/medium cones survive and become incorporated within the adult mouse retina, supporting the potential of photoreceptor transplantation for treating retinal degeneration.
Project description:Dysfunction or death of photoreceptors is the primary cause of vision loss in retinal and macular degenerative diseases. As photoreceptors have an intimate relationship with the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) for exchange of macromolecules, removal of shed membrane discs and retinoid recycling, an improved understanding of the development of the photoreceptor-RPE complex will allow better design of gene- and cell-based therapies. To explore the epigenetic contribution to retinal development we generated conditional knockout alleles of DNA methyltransferase 1 (Dnmt1) in mice. Conditional Dnmt1 knockdown in early eye development mediated by Rx-Cre did not produce lamination or cell fate defects, except in cones; however, the photoreceptors completely lacked outer segments despite near normal expression of phototransduction and cilia genes. We also identified disruption of RPE morphology and polarization as early as E15.5. Defects in outer segment biogenesis were evident with Dnmt1 exon excision only in RPE, but not when excision was directed exclusively to photoreceptors. We detected a reduction in DNA methylation of LINE1 elements (a measure of global DNA methylation) in developing mutant RPE as compared with neural retina, and of Tuba3a, which exhibited dramatically increased expression in mutant retina. These results demonstrate a unique function of DNMT1-mediated DNA methylation in controlling RPE apicobasal polarity and neural retina differentiation. We also establish a model to study the epigenetic mechanisms and signaling pathways that guide the modulation of photoreceptor outer segment morphogenesis by RPE during retinal development and disease.
Project description:The outer segments of photoreceptor cells are specialized sensory cilia, and share many features with other primary and sensory cilia. Like other cilia, photoreceptor sensory cilium (PSC) comprises a membrane domain of outer segment and its cytoskeleton. We have recently identified the protein components of mouse PSCs, and found that the list of PSC proteins, called the PSC proteome, contains many novel cilia proteins. Studies have shown that many of the identified retinal degeneration disease genes encode proteins which are part of the PSC. Furthermore, mutations in genes encoding proteins expressed both in photoreceptors and other cilia result in systemic diseases, such as Usher syndrome, Bardet-Biedl syndrome (BBS), and Senior-Loken syndrome that involve retinal degeneration along with other disorders consequent to cilia dysfunction such as deafness and polycystic kidney disease. Based on these findings, we hypothesize that genes that encode proteins required for formation of PSCs are good candidate retinal degeneration disease genes. This chapter will summarize our studies on identifying novel PSC proteins from the PSC proteome. As an example of these studies, we demonstrated that tetratricopeptide the repeat domain 21B (TTC21B) protein is a novel PSC protein and is required for normal cilia formation in primary and photoreceptor sensory cilia.
Project description:Anterograde intraflagellar transport (IFT) is essential for photoreceptor outer segment formation and maintenance, as well as for opsin trafficking. However, the role of retrograde IFT in vertebrate photoreceptors remains unclear. The purpose of this study was to evaluate zebrafish photoreceptors lacking the retrograde IFT motor, cytoplasmic dynein-2.Morpholino oligonucleotides against the heavy chain (dync2-h1), light intermediate chain (dync2-li1), and intermediate chain (dync2-i1) subunits of cytoplasmic dynein-2 were injected into zebrafish embryos. Retinas and ciliated cells of these zebrafish morphants were analyzed by immunohistochemistry and transmission electron microscopy. Whole-field electroretinograms (ERGs) were performed on dynein morphants at 5 to 6 days after fertilization (dpf).Zebrafish lacking cytoplasmic dynein-2 function exhibited small eyes, kidney cysts, and short photoreceptor outer segments, some of which were disorganized with accumulated vesicles. Morphant photoreceptor connecting cilia were swollen, but neither opsin nor arrestin was mislocalized, although IFT88 accumulated in the distal region of the connecting cilium. Nasal cilia were shortened and displayed cytoplasmic swelling along the axoneme. Loss of cytoplasmic dynein-2 function resulted in a significant reduction in the amplitude of ERG a-, b-, and d-waves but no change in threshold response.Retrograde IFT is essential for outer segment extension and IFT protein recycling in vertebrate photoreceptors. The results show, for the first time, that the dync2-i1 subunit of cytoplasmic dynein-2 is necessary for retrograde IFT. In addition, arrestin translocation does not require retrograde IFT. Finally, the ERG results indicate that loss of cytoplasmic dynein-2 reduces the photoreceptor light response.