Prolonged light exposure is a determinant factor in inducing neurodegeneration of photoreceptors by apoptosis. Yet, the molecular bases of the pathways and components triggering this cell death event are elusive. Here, we reveal a prominent age-dependent increase in the susceptibility of photoreceptor neurons to undergo apoptosis under light in a mouse model. This is accompanied by light-induced subcellular changes of photoreceptors, such as dilation of the disks at the tip of the outer segments, prominent vesiculation of nascent disks, and autophagy of mitochondria into large multilamellar bodies. Notably, haploinsufficiency of Ran-binding protein-2 (RanBP2) suppresses apoptosis and most facets of membrane dysgenesis observed with age upon light-elicited stress. RanBP2 haploinsufficiency promotes decreased levels of free fatty acids in the retina independent of light exposure and turns the mice refractory to weight gain on a high-fat diet, whereas light promotes an increase in hydrogen peroxide regardless of the genotype. These studies demonstrate the presence of age-dependent and RanBP2-mediated pathways modulating membrane biogenesis of the outer segments and light-elicited neurodegeneration of photoreceptors. Furthermore, the findings support a mechanism whereby the RanBP2-dependent production of free fatty acids, metabolites thereof or the modulation of a cofactor dependent on any of these, promote apoptosis of photoreceptors in concert with the light-stimulated production of reactive oxygen species.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Acknowledgements. This work was supported by NIH Grant EY11993 and Pearle Vision Foundation to PAF and NIH 2P30-EY005722-21. AY was supported by undergraduate research scholarships from Howard Hughes Medical Institute and American Federation Aging Research. PAF is the Jules & Doris Stein Research to Prevent Blindness Professor.
Copyright 2009 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.