Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress-associated Cone Photoreceptor Degeneration in Cyclic Nucleotide-gated Channel Deficiency

JBC, 2012, doi: 10.1074/jbc.M112.342220, Vol 287, Number 22 published on 09.04.2012
JBC, online article
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-eIF2α, phospho-IP3R, 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.

TU München
Helmholtz München
MPI of Neurobiology
MPI of Biochemistry