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Arl3 Rod-Specific Knockout Displays RP-Like Photoreceptor Degeneration

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This abstract was presented today at the 2014 Association for Research in Vision and Opthalmology (ARVO) meetings in Orlando, Florida by Christin Hanke, Houbin Zhang, Cecilia D. Gerstner, Jeanne M. Frederick AND Wolfgang Baehr.

Full size poster can be downloaded here.

Purpose: Arf-like protein 3 (Arl3) localizes predominantly in the photoreceptor inner segment. Germline Arl3 knockout mice do not survive beyond PN 21 and display multiple organ ciliary defects as well as retinal regeneration (Schrick et al., (2006). Am. J. Pathol. 168, 1288-1298). We therefore generated rod-specific Arl3 knockouts to elucidate the role of Arl3 in transport of photoreceptor membrane-associated proteins.

Methods: Knockouts containing a gene trap in intron 1 of the Arl3 gene were generated using a EUCOMM cell line. Breeding with Flp mice, followed by mating with iCre75+ mice, generated rod-specific knockouts. Photoreceptor function and retina morphology of wild-type (WT) and mutant mice were analyzed by confocal microscopy, ERG and immunohistochemistry. An Arl3-specific polyclonal antibody (Ab) was generated using a full-length recombinant Arl3 polypeptide expressed in bacteria.

Results: Western blot of WT retina with anti-Arl3-Ab identified a 20 kDa protein, which was significantly reduced in two month-old mutant (Arl3flox/flox;iCre75+) retina. Immunohistochemistry revealed Arl3 localization predominantly in the inner segments of WT photoreceptor cells. Arl3 immunoreactivity was absent in homozygous rod knockouts, but still present in cones and the inner retina. Scotopic and photopic ERGs of rod knockout and WT mice at PN15 had comparable amplitudes suggesting normal phototransduction. Retina histology of PN15 knockout mice was comparable to WT. One month-old Arl3flox/flox;iCre75+ mice showed reduced (80-90%) scotopic, but normal photopic ERG responses. In retinas of two month-old knockout mice, scotopic ERGs were extinguished, whereas cone ERGs were highly attenuated. Retinas of one month-old homozygous knockout mice had 4-5 rows of nuclei in the ONL, and only one row in two month-old mice. Immunohistochemistry of PN 15 and one month-old retina sections revealed that rhodopsin transport, as shown by rho1D4 labeling of ROS, is normal. Rhodopsin was undetectable in two month-old conditional knockout mice due to complete photoreceptor degeneration.

Conclusions: Rod-specific knockout of Arl3 revealed rapidly progressing photoreceptor degeneration, with knockout mice being completely blind at two months of age. Outer segment development appeared to be unimpaired by Arl3 deletion and rod photoreceptor function was normal at P14.

Categories: Moran Eye Center, Moran Eye Center Research, Retinal Disease.

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