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Mouse laser-induced choroidal neovascularization (mouse LCNV) recapitulates the "wet" form of human age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1) is a known inflammatory biomarker, and it increases in the choroidal neovascular tissues characteristic of this experimental model. We have designed and constructed gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) functionalized with hairpin-DNA that incorporates an antisense sequence complementary to VCAM-1 mRNA (AS-VCAM-1 hAuNPs) and tested them as optical imaging probes. The 3' end of the hairpin is coupled to a near-infrared fluorophore that is quenched by the AuNP surface via Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET). Hybridization of the antisense sequence to VCAM-1 mRNA displaces the fluorophore away from the AuNP surface, inducing fluorescent activity. In vitro testing showed that hAuNPs hybridize to an exogenous complementary oligonucleotide within a pH range of 4.5-7.4, and that they are stable at reduced pH. LCNV mice received tail-vein injections of AS-VCAM-1 hAuNPs. Hyperspectral imaging revealed the delivery of AS-VCAM-1 hAuNPs to excised choroidal tissues. Fluorescent images of CNV lesions were obtained, presumably in response to the hybridization of AS-hAuNPs to LCNV-induced VCAM-1 mRNA. This is the first demonstration of systemic delivery of hAuNPs to ocular tissues to facilitate mRNA imaging of any target.
Stargardt disease is a juvenile onset retinal degeneration, associated with elevated levels of lipofuscin and its bis-retinoid components, such as N-retinylidene-N-retinylethanolamine (A2E). However, the pathogenesis of Stargardt is still poorly understood and targeted treatments are not available. Utilizing high spatial and high mass resolution matrix assisted laser desorption ionization (MALDI) imaging mass spectrometry (IMS), we determined alterations of lipid profiles specifically localized to the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) in Abca4 Stargardt model mice compared to their relevant background strain. Extensive analysis by LC-MS/MS in both positive and negative ion mode was required to accurately confirm the identity of one highly expressed lipid class, bis(monoacylgylercoro)phosphate (BMP) lipids, and to distinguish them from isobaric species. The same BMP lipids were also detected in the RPE of healthy human retina. BMP lipids have been previously associated with the endosomal/lysosomal storage diseases Niemann-Pick and neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis and have been reported to regulate cholesterol levels in endosomes. These results suggest that perturbations in lipid metabolism associated with late endosomal/lysosomal dysfunction may play a role in the pathogenesis of Stargardt disease and is evidenced in human retinas.
We screened variants on an exome-focused genotyping array in >300,000 participants (replication in >280,000 participants) and identified 444 independent variants in 250 loci significantly associated with total cholesterol (TC), high-density-lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), and/or triglycerides (TG). At two loci (JAK2 and A1CF), experimental analysis in mice showed lipid changes consistent with the human data. We also found that: (i) beta-thalassemia trait carriers displayed lower TC and were protected from coronary artery disease (CAD); (ii) excluding the CETP locus, there was not a predictable relationship between plasma HDL-C and risk for age-related macular degeneration; (iii) only some mechanisms of lowering LDL-C appeared to increase risk for type 2 diabetes (T2D); and (iv) TG-lowering alleles involved in hepatic production of TG-rich lipoproteins (TM6SF2 and PNPLA3) tracked with higher liver fat, higher risk for T2D, and lower risk for CAD, whereas TG-lowering alleles involved in peripheral lipolysis (LPL and ANGPTL4) had no effect on liver fat but decreased risks for both T2D and CAD.
Purpose - Prominin-1 (Prom1) is a transmembrane glycoprotein, which is expressed in stem cell lineages, and has recently been implicated in cancer stem cell survival. Mutations in the Prom1 gene have been shown to disrupt photoreceptor disk morphogenesis and cause an autosomal dominant form of Stargardt-like macular dystrophy (STGD4). Despite the apparent structural role of Prom1 in photoreceptors, its role in other cells of the retina is unknown. The purpose of this study is to investigate the role of Prom1 in the highly metabolically active cells of the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE).
Methods - Lentiviral siRNA and the genome editing CRISPR/Cas9 system were used to knockout Prom1 in primary RPE and ARPE-19 cells, respectively. Western blotting, confocal microscopy, and flow sight imaging cytometry assays were used to quantify autophagy flux. Immunoprecipitation was used to detect Prom1 interacting proteins.
Results - Our studies demonstrate that Prom1 is primarily a cytosolic protein in the RPE. Stress signals and physiological aging robustly increase autophagy with concomitant upregulation of Prom1 expression. Knockout of Prom1 increased mTORC1 and mTORC2 signaling, decreased autophagosome trafficking to the lysosome, increased p62 accumulation, and inhibited autophagic puncta induced by activators of autophagy. Conversely, ectopic overexpression of Prom1 inhibited mTORC1 and mTORC2 activities, and potentiated autophagy flux. Through interactions with p62 and HDAC6, Prom1 regulates autophagosome maturation and trafficking, suggesting a new cytoplasmic role of Prom1 in RPE function.
Conclusions - Our results demonstrate that Prom1 plays a key role in the regulation of autophagy via upstream suppression of mTOR signaling and also acting as a component of a macromolecular scaffold involving p62 and HDAC6.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of irreversible visual loss and is primarily treated with nutritional supplementation as well as with anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) agents for certain patients with neovascular disease. AMD is a complex disease with both genetic and environmental risk factors. In addition, treatment outcomes from nutritional supplementation and anti-VEGF agents vary considerably. Therefore, it is reasonable to suspect that there may be pharmacogenetic influences on these treatments. Many series have reported individual associations with variants in complement factor H (CFH), age-related maculopathy susceptibility 2 (ARMS2), and other loci. However, at this time there are no validated associations. With respect to AMD, pharmacogenetics remains an intriguing area of research but is not helpful for routine clinical management.
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Purpose - Progression rate of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) varies substantially, yet its association with genetic variation has not been widely examined.
Methods - We tested whether progression rate from intermediate AMD to geographic atrophy (GA) or choroidal neovascularization (CNV) was correlated with genotype at seven single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the four genes most strongly associated with risk of advanced AMD. Cox proportional hazards survival models examined the association between progression time and SNP genotype while adjusting for age and sex and accounting for variable follow-up time, right censored data, and repeated measures (left and right eyes).
Results - Progression rate varied with the number of risk alleles at the CFH:rs10737680 but not the CFH:rs1061170 (Y402H) SNP; individuals with two risk alleles progressed faster than those with one allele (hazard ratio [HR] = 1.61, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.08-2.40, P < 0.02, n = 547 eyes), although this was not significant after Bonferroni correction. This signal was likely driven by an association at the correlated protective variant, CFH:rs6677604, which tags the CFHR1-3 deletion; individuals with at least one protective allele progressed more slowly. Considering GA and CNV separately showed that the effect of CFH:rs10737680 was stronger for progression to CNV.
Conclusions - Results support previous findings that AMD progression rate is influenced by CFH, and suggest that variants within CFH may have different effects on risk versus progression. However, since CFH:rs10737680 was not significant after Bonferroni correction and explained only a relatively small portion of variation in progression rate beyond that explained by age, we suggest that additional factors contribute to progression.
PURPOSE - Demographic, environmental, and genetic risk factors for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) have been identified; however, a substantial portion of the variance in AMD disease risk and heritability remains unexplained. To identify AMD risk variants and generate hypotheses for future studies, we performed whole exome sequencing for 75 individuals whose phenotype was not well predicted by their genotype at known risk loci. We hypothesized that these phenotypically extreme individuals were more likely to carry rare risk or protective variants with large effect sizes.
METHODS - A genetic risk score was calculated in a case-control set of 864 individuals (467 AMD cases, 397 controls) based on 19 common (≥1% minor allele frequency, MAF) single nucleotide variants previously associated with the risk of advanced AMD in a large meta-analysis of advanced cases and controls. We then selected for sequencing 39 cases with bilateral choroidal neovascularization with the lowest genetic risk scores to detect risk variants and 36 unaffected controls with the highest genetic risk score to detect protective variants. After minimizing the influence of 19 common genetic risk loci on case-control status, we targeted single variants of large effect and the aggregate effect of weaker variants within genes and pathways. Single variant tests were conducted on all variants, while gene-based and pathway analyses were conducted on three subsets of data: 1) rare (≤1% MAF in the European population) stop, splice, or damaging missense variants, 2) all rare variants, and 3) all variants. All analyses controlled for the effects of age and sex.
RESULTS - No variant, gene, or pathway outside regions known to be associated with risk for advanced AMD reached genome-wide significance. However, we identified several variants with substantial differences in allele frequency between cases and controls with strong additive effects on affection status after controlling for age and sex. Protective effects trending toward significance were detected at two loci identified in single-variant analyses: an intronic variant in FBLN7 (the gene encoding fibulin 7) and at three variants near pyridoxal (pyridoxine, vitamin B6) kinase (PDXK). Aggregate rare-variant analyses suggested evidence for association at ASRGL1, a gene previously linked to photoreceptor cell death, and at BSDC1. In known AMD loci we also identified 29 novel or rare damaging missense or stop/splice variants in our sample of cases and controls.
CONCLUSIONS - Identified variants and genes may highlight regions important in the pathogenesis of AMD and are key targets for replication.
PURPOSE - Age-related macular degeneration is a common form of vision loss affecting older adults. The etiology of AMD is multifactorial and is influenced by environmental and genetic risk factors. In this study, we examine how 19 common risk variants contribute to drusen progression, a hallmark of AMD pathogenesis.
METHODS - Exome chip data was made available through the International AMD Genomics Consortium (IAMDGC). Drusen quantification was carried out with color fundus photographs using an automated drusen detection and quantification algorithm. A genetic risk score (GRS) was calculated per subject by summing risk allele counts at 19 common genetic risk variants weighted by their respective effect sizes. Pathway analysis of drusen progression was carried out with the software package Pathway Analysis by Randomization Incorporating Structure.
RESULTS - We observed significant correlation with drusen baseline area and the GRS in the age-related eye disease study (AREDS) dataset (ρ = 0.175, P = 0.006). Measures of association were not statistically significant between drusen progression and the GRS (P = 0.54). Pathway analysis revealed the cell adhesion molecules pathway as the most highly significant pathway associated with drusen progression (corrected P = 0.02).
CONCLUSIONS - In this study, we explored the potential influence of known common AMD genetic risk factors on drusen progression. Our results from the GRS analysis showed association of increasing genetic burden (from 19 AMD associated loci) to baseline drusen load but not drusen progression in the AREDS dataset while pathway analysis suggests additional genetic contributors to AMD risk.
IMPORTANCE - Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) remains the leading cause of blindness in developed countries, and affects more than 150 million worldwide. Despite effective anti-angiogenic therapies for the less prevalent neovascular form of AMD, treatments are lacking for the more prevalent dry form. Similarities in risk factors and pathogenesis between AMD and atherosclerosis have led investigators to study the effects of statins on AMD incidence and progression with mixed results. A limitation of these studies has been the heterogeneity of AMD disease and the lack of standardization in statin dosage.
OBJECTIVE - We were interested in studying the effects of high-dose statins, similar to those showing regression of atherosclerotic plaques, in AMD.
DESIGN - Pilot multicenter open-label prospective clinical study of 26 patients with diagnosis of AMD and the presence of many large, soft drusenoid deposits. Patients received 80 mg of atorvastatin daily and were monitored at baseline and every 3 months with complete ophthalmologic exam, best corrected visual acuity (VA), fundus photographs, optical coherence tomography (OCT), and blood work (AST, ALT, CPK, total cholesterol, TSH, creatinine, as well as a pregnancy test for premenopausal women).
RESULTS - Twenty-three subjects completed a minimum follow-up of 12 months. High-dose atorvastatin resulted in regression of drusen deposits associated with vision gain (+ 3.3 letters, p = 0.06) in 10 patients. No subjects progressed to advanced neovascular AMD.
CONCLUSIONS - High-dose statins may result in resolution of drusenoid pigment epithelial detachments (PEDs) and improvement in VA, without atrophy or neovascularization in a high-risk subgroup of AMD patients. Confirmation from larger studies is warranted.
Advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in the elderly, with limited therapeutic options. Here we report on a study of >12 million variants, including 163,714 directly genotyped, mostly rare, protein-altering variants. Analyzing 16,144 patients and 17,832 controls, we identify 52 independently associated common and rare variants (P < 5 × 10(-8)) distributed across 34 loci. Although wet and dry AMD subtypes exhibit predominantly shared genetics, we identify the first genetic association signal specific to wet AMD, near MMP9 (difference P value = 4.1 × 10(-10)). Very rare coding variants (frequency <0.1%) in CFH, CFI and TIMP3 suggest causal roles for these genes, as does a splice variant in SLC16A8. Our results support the hypothesis that rare coding variants can pinpoint causal genes within known genetic loci and illustrate that applying the approach systematically to detect new loci requires extremely large sample sizes.