Light stress affects cones and horizontal cells via rhodopsin-mediated mechanisms

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Retinal degenerations are a major cause of blindness in human patients. The identification of endogenous mechanisms involved in neurodegeneration or neuroprotection helps to understand the response of the retina to stress and provides essential information not only for basic retinal physiology but also for defining molecular targets for neuroprotective strategies. Here we used excessive light exposure as a model system to study mechanisms of photoreceptor degeneration in mice. Using one wild type and four genetically modified mouse strains, we demonstrate that light exposure resulted not only in the degeneration of rods but also in an early but transient repression of several cone-specific genes, in a reversible hyperreflectivity of the outer retina including the outer plexiform layer, and in the loss of horizontal cells. The effects on cones, horizontal cells and the inner retina depended on light absorption by rhodopsin and, at least partially, on leukemia inhibitory factor. This demonstrates the existence of intercellular communication routes that transduce rod stress to other cells, likely to provide support for photoreceptors and increase cell survival in the injured retina.




Samardzija, M., Todorova, V., Gougoulakis, L., Barben, M., Nötzli, S., Klee, K., … Grimm, C. (2019). Light stress affects cones and horizontal cells via rhodopsin-mediated mechanisms. Experimental Eye Research, 186.

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