Tag Archives: Bryan W. Jones

Modeling Complex Age-Related Eye Disease

We have a new Progress in Retinal and Eye Research manuscript out in collaboration with my colleagues here at the Moran Eye Center.

Authors: Silke Becker, Zia L’Ecuyer, Bryan W Jones, Moussa A Zouache, Fiona S McDonnell, Frans Vinberg.

Abstract: Modeling complex eye diseases like age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and glaucoma poses significant challenges, since these conditions depend highly on age-related changes that occur over several decades, with many contributing factors remaining unknown. Although both diseases exhibit a relatively high heritability of >50%, a large proportion of individuals carrying AMD- or glaucoma-associated genetic risk variants will never develop these diseases. Furthermore, several environmental and lifestyle factors contribute to and modulate the pathogenesis and progression of AMD and glaucoma.

Several strategies replicate the impact of genetic risk variants, pathobiological pathways and environmental and lifestyle factors in AMD and glaucoma in mice and other species. In this review we will mostly discuss the most commonly available mouse models, which have and will likely continue to improve our understanding of the pathobiology of age-related eye diseases. Uncertainties persist whether small animal models can truly recapitulate disease progression and vision loss in patients, raising doubts regarding their usefulness when testing novel gene or drug therapies. We will elaborate on concerns that relate to shorter lifespan, body size and allometries, lack of macula and a true lamina cribrosa, as well as absence and sequence disparities of certain genes and differences in their chromosomal location in mice.

Since biological, rather than chronological, age likely predisposes an organism for both glaucoma and AMD, more rapidly aging organisms like small rodents may open up possibilities that will make research of these diseases more timely and financially feasible. On the other hand, due to the above-mentioned anatomical and physiological features, as well as pharmacokinetic and -dynamic differences small animal models are not ideal to study the natural progression of vision loss or the efficacy and safety of novel therapies. In this context, we will also discuss the advantages and pitfalls of alternative models that include larger species, such as non-human primates and rabbits, patient-derived retinal organoids, and human organ donor eyes.

Unbalanced Redox Status Network As An Early Pathological Event In Congenital Cataracts

We have a new manuscript from the lab in Experimental Eye Research, (PubMed link here). Metabolic changes and retinal remodeling in Heterozygous CRX mutant cats (CRXRDY/+). This manuscript is in collaboration with the Sheldon Rowan lab out of Tufts University.  Authors are: Eloy Bejarano, Elizabeth A Whitcomb, Rebecca L Pfeiffer (@BeccaPfeiffer19), Kristie L Rose, Maria José Asensio, José Antonio Rodríguez-Navarro, Alejandro Ponce-Mora, Antolín Canto, Inma Almansa, Kevin L Schey, Bryan W Jones (@BWJones), Allen Taylor, and Sheldon Rowan (@SheldonRowan). The PDF is here.

Abstract: The lens proteome undergoes dramatic composition changes during development and maturation. A defective developmental process leads to congenital cataracts that account for about 30% of cases of childhood blindness. Gene mutations are associated with approximately 50% of early-onset forms of lens opacity, with the remainder being of unknown etiology. To gain a better understanding of cataractogenesis, we utilized a transgenic mouse model expressing a mutant ubiquitin protein in the lens (K6W-Ub) that recapitulates most of the early pathological changes seen in human congenital cataracts. We performed mass spectrometry-based tandem-mass-tag quantitative proteomics in E15, P1, and P30 control or K6W-Ub lenses. Our analysis identified targets that are required for early normal differentiation steps and altered in cataractous lenses, particularly metabolic pathways involving glutathione and amino acids. Computational molecular phenotyping revealed that glutathione and taurine were spatially altered in the K6W-Ub cataractous lens. High-performance liquid chromatography revealed that both taurine and the ratio of reduced glutathione to oxidized glutathione, two indicators of redox status, were differentially compromised in lens biology. In sum, our research documents that dynamic proteome changes in a mouse model of congenital cataracts impact redox biology in lens. Our findings shed light on the molecular mechanisms associated with congenital cataracts and point out that unbalanced redox status due to reduced levels of taurine and glutathione, metabolites already linked to age-related cataract, could be a major underlying mechanism behind lens opacities that appear early in life.

Impact of Retinal Degeneration on Response of ON and OFF Cone Bipolar Cells to Electrical Stimulation

We have a new manuscript from the lab in IEEE, Impact of Retinal Degeneration on Response of ON and OFF Cone Bipolar Cells to Electrical Stimulation. This manuscript is in collaboration with the Lazzi lab out of USC.  The first author, Shayan Farzad, Pragya Kosta, Ege Iseri, Steven T Walston, Jean-Marie C. Bouteiller,  Rebecca L. Pfeiffer @BeccaPfeiffer19, Crystal L. Sigulinsky @CSigulinsky, Jia-Hui Yang, Jessica C. Garcia, James R. Anderson, Bryan W. Jones @BWJones, and Gianluca Lazzi. The PDF is here.

Abstract: In retinal degenerative diseases, such as retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the photoreceptors become stressed and start to degenerate in the early stages of the disease. Retinal prosthetic devices have been developed to restore vision in patients by applying electrical stimulation to the surviving retinal cells. However, these devices provide limited visual perception as the therapeutic interventions are generally considered in the later stages of the disease when only inner retinal layer cells are left. A potential treatment option for retinal degenerative diseases in the early stages can be stimulating bipolar cells, which receive presynaptic signals from photoreceptors. In this work, we constructed computational models of healthy and degenerated (both ON and OFF-type) cone bipolar cells (CBCs) with realistic morphologies extracted from connectomes of the healthy and early-stage degenerated rabbit retina. We examined these cells’ membrane potential and axon terminal calcium current differences when subjected to electrical stimulation. In addition, we investigated how differently healthy and degenerated cells behave with respect to various stimulation parameters, including pulse duration and cells’ distance from the stimulating electrode. The results suggested that regardless of the position of the OFF CBCs in the retina model, there is not a significant difference between the membrane potential of healthy and degenerate cells when electrically stimulated. However, the healthy ON CBC axon terminal membrane potential rising time-constant is shorter (0.29 ± 0.03 ms) than the degenerated cells (0.8 ± 0.07 ms). Moreover, the ionic calcium channels at the axon terminals of the cells have a higher concentration and higher current in degenerated cells (32.24 ± 6.12 pA) than the healthy cells (13.64 ± 2.88 pA) independently of the cell’s position.

Mitochondrial Transfer Between Inner Retinal Neurons

This abstract was presented today, April 26th at the 2023 Association for Research in Vision and Opthalmology (ARVO) meetings in New Orleans, Louisiana by Selena Wirthlin, Crystal Sigulinsky, James Anderson, and Bryan William Jones.

Full resolution version here.

Purpose
Intercellular mitochondrial transfer has been reported across a variety of cells and tissues under both physiological and pathological conditions. Such transfer has shown broad therapeutic potential. The effectiveness of this therapy, however, is limited by a lack of understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms. Here, the ultrastructural features of mitochondrial transfer between inner retinal neurons discovered through retinal connectomics analysis is shown.

Methods
Retinal Connectome 2 (RC2) was built by automated transmission electron microscopy at ultrastructural (2nm/pixel) resolution. RC2 is a 0.25mm diameter volume of retina obtained from a 5-month-old female C57BL/6J mouse. The Viking application was used to visualize and annotate inter- and intracellular features of interest in the connectome.

Results
Exploration of RC2 revealed material transfer between apposing neural processes within the OFF subliminal of the inner plexiform layer. The transferred material can be defined as a mitochondria, confirmed by the presence of crustae. At the transfer site, a short, electron-dense 140-nm diameter tube with a curved cap tightly associated with the inner mitochondrial membrane of one neuritis extends into a vacuole within the apposing neuritis formed by the plasma membranes of the two cells. Thin cytoskeletal components consistent with actin microfilaments extend into the mitochondrion. Morphology and synaptology of the acceptor cell confirm it is an Aii amacrine cell, while preliminary findings suggest the donor cell is a type of ON/OFF ganglion cell.

Conclusions
These findings demonstrate active mitochondrial transfer between different classes of endogenous inner retinal neurons and suggests it may represent an important component of tissue homeostasis in the retina. Features of this transfer differ from previously reported mitochondrial transfer between photoreceptors upon transplantation, which may indicate cell type- or context-dependent differences in the cellular or molecular mechanisms. Our findings demonstrate active mitochondrial transfer between different classes of endogenous inner retinal neurons and suggest it may represent an important component of tissue homeostasis in the retina. Features of this transfer differ from previous reports by the Wallace and Pearson groups of material transfer between photoreceptors upon transplantation through tunneling nanotubes (Ortin- Martinez et al., 2021; Kalargyrou et al., 2021), which may indicate cell type- or context-dependent differences in the cellular or molecular mechanisms. Understanding these mechanisms could serve as a catalyst for development of novel therapeutics for disease in the retina and beyond.

Current Perspective on Retinal Remodeling: Implications for Therapeutics

We have a new paper out of the lab, a perspectives paper on Retinal Remodeling: Implications for Therapeutics. (pdf here).

Authors are Rebecca L. Pfeiffer @BeccaPfeiffer19, and Bryan W. Jones @BWJones.

Abstract: The retinal degenerative diseases retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration are a leading cause of irreversible vision loss. Both present with progressive photoreceptor degeneration that is further complicated by processes of retinal remodeling. In this perspective, we discuss the current state of the field of retinal remodeling and its implications for vision-restoring therapeutics currently in development. Here, we discuss the challenges and pitfalls retinal remodeling poses for each therapeutic strategy under the premise that understanding the features of retinal remodeling in totality will provide a basic framework with which therapeutics can interface. Additionally, we discuss the potential for approaching therapeutics using a combined strategy of using diffusible molecules in tandem with other vision-restoring therapeutics. We end by discussing the potential of the retina and retinal remodeling as a model system for more broadly understanding the progression of neurodegeneration across the central nervous system.

Revival Of Light Signalling In The Postmortem Mouse And Human Retina

We have a new collaborative manuscript out in Nature, Revival of light signalling in the postmortem mouse and human retina. Full paper (here).

Authors: Fatima Abbas @neurofim, Silke Becker, Bryan W. Jones @BWJones, Ludovic S. Mure, Satchidananda Panda @SatchinPanda, Anne Hanneken & Frans Vinberg @fvinberg.

Abstract:
Death is defined as the irreversible cessation of circulatory, respiratory or brain activity. Many peripheral human organs can be transplanted from deceased donors using protocols to optimize viability. However, tissues from the central nervous system rapidly lose viability after circulation ceases, impeding their potential for transplantation. However, the time course and mechanisms causing neuronal death and the potential for revival remain poorly defined. Here, using the retina as a model of the central nervous system, we systemically examine the kinetics of death and neuronal revival. We demonstrate the swift decline of neuronal signalling and identify conditions for reviving synchronous in vivo-like trans-synaptic transmission in postmortem mouse and human retina. We measure light-evoked responses in human macular photoreceptors in eyes removed up to 5 h after death and identify modifiable factors that drive reversible and irreversible loss of light signalling after death. Finally, we quantify the rate-limiting deactivation reaction of phototransduction, a model G protein signalling cascade, in peripheral and macular human and macaque retina. Our approach will have broad applications and impact by enabling transformative studies in the human central nervous system, raising questions about the irreversibility of neuronal cell death, and providing new avenues for visual rehabilitation.

Proteomic changes in the lens of a congenital cataract mouse model lead to reduced levels of glutathione and taurine

This abstract was presented today, May 4th at the 2022  Association for Research in Vision and Opthalmology (ARVO) meetings in Denver, Colorado by Sheldon Rowan @SheldonRowan, Eloy Bejarano, Elizabeth Whitcomb, Rebecca Pfeiffer @BeccaPfeiffer19, Kristie Rose, Kevin Schey, Bryan Jones @BWJones, Allen Taylor.

Purpose: Congenital cataracts develop through multiple mechanisms, but often lead to common endpoints, including protein aggregation, impaired fiber cell differentiation, and absence of fiber cell denucleation. It is now apparent that other metabolic abnormalities associate with cataractogenesis, including reductions in levels of amino acids, glutathione, and taurine. Here, we analyze the proteome and metabolome of mice expressing a mutant ubiquitin protein (K6W-Ub) to determine the molecular mechanisms underlying formation of its congenital cataract.

Methods: C57BL/6J wild-type or cataractous K6W-Ub transgenic mouse lenses were dissected at E15.5, P1, or P30 and proteins were analyzed via MS-based tandem-mass-tag (TMT) quantitative proteomics. Small molecules were spatially quantified using computational molecular phenotyping (CMP), a tool that enables acquisition of free amino acid fingerprints for every cell in the lens. Validation of proteomics findings was also performed using Western blot analysis and immunohistochemistry.

Results: Proteomic analyses revealed pathways that were altered during lens differentiation, by expression of K6W-Ub, or both. Prominent pathways included glutathione metabolism; glycolysis/gluconeogenesis; and glycine, serine, and threonine metabolism. Within the glutathione metabolism pathway, GSTP1 and GGCT were most strongly downregulated by K6W-Ub. Other consistently downregulated proteins were PGAM2, GAMT, and HMOX1. Proteins that were upregulated by K6W-Ub expression belonged to pathways related to lysosome, autophagy, Alzheimer’s disease, and glycolysis/gluconeogenesis. Analysis of the metabolome via CMP revealed statistically significant decreases in taurine and glutathione and smaller decreases in glutamate, glutamine, aspartate, and valine in all ages of K6W-Ub lenses. Lens metabolites were spatially altered in the cataractous K6W-Ub lens.

Conclusions: K6W-Ub expressing lenses replicate many congenital cataract phenotypes and are useful disease models. The large reductions in levels of taurine and glutathione may be general signatures of cataract development, as human cataracts also have reduced glutathione and taurine. Key roles for amino acid metabolism and glycolysis/gluconeogenesis in cataractogenesis are emerging. Together our data point toward potential common metabolic/proteomic signatures of cataracts.