Postdoctoral fellow, Crystal Sigulinsky delivered a virtual talk today at the International Gap Junction Conference on Classical mixed synapses and other electrical plus chemical synapse topologies in the mammalian retina.
We have a new manuscript out in Experimental Eye Research, Natural Immunoglobulin M-based Delivery of a Complement Alternative Pathway Inhibitor in Mouse Models of Retinal Degeneration. (pdf here)
Purpose: Age-related macular degeneration is a slowly progressing disease. Studies have tied disease risk to an overactive complement system. We have previously demonstrated that pathology in two mouse models, the choroidal neovascularization (CNV) model and the smoke-induced ocular pathology (SIOP) model, can be reduced by specifically inhibiting the alternative complement pathway (AP). Here we report on the development of a novel injury-site targeted inhibitor of the alternative pathway, and its characterization in models of retinal degeneration.
Methods: Expression of the danger associated molecular pattern, a modified annexin IV, in injured ARPE-19 cells was confirmed by immunohistochemistry and complementation assays using B4 IgM mAb. Subsequently, a construct was prepared consisting of B4 single chain antibody (scFv) linked to a fragment of the alternative pathway inhibitor, fH (B4-scFv-fH). ARPE-19 cells stably expressing B4-scFv-fH were microencapsulated and administered intravitreally or subcutaneously into C57BL/6 J mice, followed by CNV induction or smoke exposure. Progression of CNV was analyzed using optical coherence tomography, and SIOP using structure-function analyses. B4-scFv-fH targeting and AP specificity was assessed by Western blot and binding experiments.
Results: B4-scFv-fH was secreted from encapsulated RPE and inhibited complement in RPE monolayers. B4-scFv-fH capsules reduced CNV and SIOP, and western blotting for C3a, C3d, IgM and IgG confirmed a reduction in complement activation and antibody binding in RPE/choroid.
Conclusions: Data supports a role for natural antibodies and neoepitope expression in ocular disease, and describes a novel strategy to target AP-specific complement inhibition to diseased tissue in the eye.
Precis: AMD risk is tied to an overactive complement system, and ocular injury is reduced by alternative pathway (AP) inhibition in experimental models. We developed a novel inhibitor of the AP that targets an injury-specific danger associated molecular pattern, and characterized it in disease models.
Keywords: Alternative pathway inhibitor; Choroidal neovascularization; Complement system; Encapsulated ARPE-19 cells; Natural antibody-mediated targeting; Smoke-induced ocular pathology.
We have a new manuscript out in iOVS, Subretinal Rather Than Intravitreal Adeno-Associated Virus–Mediated Delivery of a Complement Alternative Pathway Inhibitor Is Effective in a Mouse Model of RPE Damage. (pdf here)
Purpose: The risk for age-related macular degeneration has been tied to an overactive complement system. Despite combined attempts by academia and industry to develop therapeutics that modulate the complement response, particularly in the late geographic atrophy form of advanced AMD, to date, there is no effective treatment. We have previously demonstrated that pathology in the smoke-induced ocular pathology (SIOP) model, a model with similarities to dry AMD, is dependent on activation of the alternative complement pathway and that a novel complement activation site targeted inhibitor of the alternative pathway can be delivered to ocular tissues via an adeno-associated virus (AAV).
Methods: Two different viral vectors for specific tissue targeting were compared: AAV5-VMD2-CR2-fH for delivery to the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) and AAV2YF-smCBA-CR2-fH for delivery to retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). Efficacy was tested in SIOP (6 months of passive smoke inhalation), assessing visual function (optokinetic responses), retinal structure (optical coherence tomography), and integrity of the RPE and Bruch’s membrane (electron microscopy). Protein chemistry was used to assess complement activation, CR2-fH tissue distribution, and CR2-fH transport across the RPE.
Results: RPE- but not RGC-mediated secretion of CR2-fH was found to reduce SIOP and complement activation in RPE/choroid. Bioavailability of CR2-fH in RPE/choroid could be confirmed only after AAV5-VMD2-CR2-fH treatment, and inefficient, adenosine triphosphate–dependent transport of CR2-fH across the RPE was identified.
Conclusions: Our results suggest that complement inhibition for AMD-like pathology is required basal to the RPE and argues in favor of AAV vector delivery to the RPE or outside the blood-retina barrier.
We have a new manuscript out in Experimental Eye Research, Model-Based Comparison of Current Flow in Rod Bipolar Cells of Healthy and Early-Stage Degenerated Retina. (pdf here)
Authors: Pragya Kosta, Ege Iseri, Kyle Loizos, Javad Paknahad, Rebecca L. Pfeiffer @BeccaPfeiffer19, Crystal L. Sigulinsky @CLSigulinsky, James R. Anderson, Bryan W. Jones @BWJones, and Gianluca Lazzi.
Abstract: Retinal degenerative diseases, such as retinitis pigmentosa, are generally thought to initiate with the loss of photoreceptors, though recent work suggests that plasticity and remodeling occurs prior to photoreceptor cell loss. This degeneration subsequently leads to death of other retinal neurons, creating functional alterations and extensive remodeling of retinal networks. Retinal prosthetic devices stimulate the surviving retinal cells by applying external current using implanted electrodes. Although these devices restore partial vision, the quality of restored vision is limited. Further knowledge about the precise changes in degenerated retina as the disease progresses is essential to understand how current flows in retinas undergoing degenerative disease and to improve the performance of retinal prostheses. We developed computational models that describe current flow from rod photoreceptors to rod bipolar cells
We have a new manuscript out in Experimental Eye Research, A pathoconnectome of early neurodegeneration: Network changes in retinal degeneration. (pdf here)
Authors: Rebecca L. Pfeiffer @BeccaPfeiffer19, James R. Anderson, Jeebika Dahal, Jessica C. Garcia, Jia-Hui Yang, Crystal L. Sigulinsky @CLSigulinsky, Kevin Rapp, Daniel P. Emrich, Carl B. Watt, Hope AB Johnstun, Alexis R. Houser, Robert E. Marc @robertmarc60, and Bryan W. Jones @BWJones.
Abstract: Connectomics has demonstrated that synaptic networks and their topologies are precise and directly correlate with physiology and behavior. The next extension of connectomics is pathoconnectomics: to map neural network synaptology and circuit topologies corrupted by neurological disease in order to identify robust targets for therapeutics. In this report, we characterize a pathoconnectome of early retinal degeneration. This pathoconnectome was generated using serial section transmission electron microscopy to achieve an ultrastructural connectome with 2.18nm/px resolution for accurate identification of all chemical and gap junctional synapses. We observe aberrant connectivity in the rod-network pathway and novel synaptic connections deriving from neurite sprouting. These observations reveal principles of neuron responses to the loss of network components and can be extended to other neurodegenerative diseases.
We have a new manuscript out in Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism, Müller Cell Metabolic Signatures: Evolutionary Conservation and Disruption in Disease.
This manuscript functions as both a review and presents some exciting new data demonstrating how the glutamate cycle is disrupted during retinal degenerative disease.
Abstract: Müller cells are glia that play important regulatory roles in retinal metabolism. These roles have been evolutionarily conserved across at least 300 million years. Müller cells have a tightly locked metabolic signature in the healthy retina, which rapidly degrades in response to insult and disease. This variation in metabolic signature occurs in a chaotic fashion, involving some central metabolic pathways. The cause of this divergence of Müller cells, from a single class with a unique metabolic signature to numerous separable metabolic classes, is currently unknown and illuminates potential alternative metabolic pathways that may be revealed in disease. Understanding the impacts of this heterogeneity on degenerate retinas and the implications for the metabolic support of surrounding neurons will be critical to long-term integration of retinal therapeutics for the restoration of visual perception following photoreceptor degeneration.
We have a new paper out In Frontiers in Neural Circuits, Heterocellular Coupling Between Amacrine Cells and Ganglion Cells. This manuscript preprint was published in BioRxiv.
Abstract: All superclasses of retinal neurons, including bipolar cells (BCs), amacrine cells (ACs) and ganglion cells (GCs), display gap junctional coupling. However, coupling varies extensively by class. Heterocellular AC coupling is common in many mammalian GC classes. Yet, the topology and functions of coupling networks remains largely undefined. GCs are the least frequent superclass in the inner plexiform layer and the gap junctions mediating GC-to-AC coupling (GC::AC) are sparsely arrayed amidst large cohorts of homocellular AC::AC, BC::BC, GC::GC and heterocellular AC::BC gap junctions. Here, we report quantitative coupling for identified GCs in retinal connectome 1 (RC1), a high resolution (2 nm) transmission electron microscopy-based volume of rabbit retina. These reveal that most GC gap junctions in RC1 are suboptical. GC classes lack direct cross-class homocellular coupling with other GCs, despite opportunities via direct membrane contact, while OFF alpha GCs and transient ON directionally selective (DS) GCs are strongly coupled to distinct AC cohorts. Integrated small molecule immunocytochemistry identifies these as GABAergic ACs (γ+ ACs). Multi-hop synaptic queries of RC1 connectome further profile these coupled γ+ ACs. Notably, OFF alpha GCs couple to OFF γ+ ACs and transient ON DS GCs couple to ON γ+ ACs, including a large interstitial amacrine cell, revealing matched ON/OFF photic drive polarities within coupled networks. Furthermore, BC input to these γ+ ACs is tightly matched to the GCs with which they couple. Evaluation of the coupled versus inhibitory targets of the γ+ ACs reveals that in both ON and OFF coupled GC networks these ACs are presynaptic to GC classes that are different than the classes with which they couple. These heterocellular coupling patterns provide a potential mechanism for an excited GC to indirectly inhibit nearby GCs of different classes. Similarly, coupled γ+ ACs engaged in feedback networks can leverage the additional gain of BC synapses in shaping the signaling of downstream targets based on their own selective coupling with GCs. A consequence of coupling is intercellular fluxes of small molecules. GC::AC coupling involves primarily γ+ cells, likely resulting in GABA diffusion into GCs. Surveying GABA signatures in the GC layer across diverse species suggests the majority of vertebrate retinas engage in GC::γ+ AC coupling.
The Marclab for Connectomics is off to RD2018 and ISER 2018 in Killarney, Ireland and Belfast, Northern Ireland. I’ll be organizing sessions on retinal degeneration, and I’m tremendously proud of the work Dr. Crystal Sigulinsky will be presenting from her work on gap junctional connectivity in retinal degenerations and the work Dr. Rebecca Pfeiffer (@BeccaPfeiffer19) will be presenting on her work on the retinal pathoconnectome in two talks on bipolar cells and Müller cells.
We have a new publication out (direct link), Increasing Electrical Stimulation Efficacy in Degenerated Retina: Stimulus Waveform Design in a Multiscale Computational Model authored by Kyle Loizos, Robert Marc, Mark Humayun, James R. Anderson, Bryan W. Jones and Gianluca Lazzi.
Abstract—A computational model of electrical stimulation of the retina is proposed for investigating current waveforms used in prosthetic devices for restoring partial vision lost to retina degen- erative diseases. The model framework combines a connectome- based neural network model characterized by accurate mor- phological and synaptic properties with an Admittance Method model of bulk tissue and prosthetic electronics. In this model, the retina was computationally “degenerated,” considering cellular death and anatomical changes that occur early in disease, as well as altered neural behavior that develops throughout the neurodegeneration and is likely interfering with current attempts at restoring vision. A resulting analysis of stimulation range and threshold of ON ganglion cells within retina that are either healthy or in beginning stages of degeneration is presented for currently-used stimulation waveforms, and an asymmetric biphasic current stimulation for subduing spontaneous firing to allow increased control over ganglion cell firing patterns in degenerated retina is proposed. Results show that stimulation thresholds of retinal ganglion cells do not notably vary after beginning stages of retina degeneration. In addition, simulation of proposed asymmetric waveforms showed the ability to enhance the control of ganglion cell firing via electrical stimulation.
We have a new publication in Molecular Psychiatry, Corticostriatal circuit defects in Hoxb8 mutant mice. (Direct link here). Authors are: Naveen Nagarajan, Bryan W. Jones, Peter West, Robert Marc, and Mario R. Capecchi.
Abstract: Hoxb8 mutant mice exhibit compulsive grooming and hair removal dysfunction similar to humans with the obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)-spectrum disorder, trichotillomania. As, in the mouse brain, the only detectable cells that label with Hoxb8 cell lineage appear to be microglia, we suggested that defective microglia cause the neuropsychiatric disorder. Does the Hoxb8 mutation in microglia lead to neural circuit dysfunctions? We demonstrate that Hoxb8 mutants contain corticostriatal circuit defects. Golgi staining, ultra-structural and electrophysiological studies of mutants reveal excess dendritic spines, pre- and postsynaptic structural defects, long-term potentiation and miniature postsynaptic current defects. Hoxb8 mutants also exhibit hyperanxiety and social behavioral deficits similar to mice with neuronal mutations in Sapap3, Slitrk5 and Shank3, reported models of OCD and autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Long-term treatment of Hoxb8 mutants with fluoxetine, a serotonin reuptake inhibitor, reduces excessive grooming, hyperanxiety and social behavioral impairments. These studies provide linkage between the neuronal defects induced by defective Hoxb8-microglia and neuronal dysfunctions directly generated by mutations in synaptic components that result in mice, which display similar pathological grooming, hyperanxiety and social impairment deficits. Our results shed light on Hoxb8 microglia-driven circuit-specific defects and therapeutic approaches that will become essential to developing novel
therapies for neuropsychiatric diseases such as OCD and ASDs with Hoxb8-microglia being the central target.