Background: Catalytic hydrolysis of cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) by phosphodiesterase 6 (PDE6) is critical in phototransduction signalling in photoreceptors. Mutations in the genes encoding any of the three PDE6 subunits are associated with retinitis pigmentosa, the most common form of inherited retinal diseases. The RD1 mouse carries a naturally occurring nonsense mutation in the Pde6b gene. The RD1 mouse retina rapidly degenerates and fails to form rod photoreceptor outer segments due to the elevated cGMP level and subsequent excessive Ca2+ influx. In this study, we aim to test whether the PDE5 expression, a non-photoreceptor-specific member of the PDE superfamily, rescues photoreceptors in the RD1 retina.
Methods: Electroporation used the PDE5 expression plasmid to transfect neonatal RD1 mice. The mouse retina degeneration was assessed by retinal sections’ stains with DAPI. The expression and localization of phototransduction proteins in photoreceptors were analysed by immunostaining. The expression of proteins in cultured cells was analysed by immunoblotting.
Results: The exogenous PDE5 expression, a non-photoreceptor-specific member of the PDE superfamily, prevents photoreceptor degeneration in RD1 mice. Unlike endogenous photoreceptor-specific PDE6 localised in the outer segments of photoreceptors, ectopically- expressed PDE5 was distributed in inner segments and synaptic terminals. PDE5 also promoted the development of the outer segments in RD1 mice. PDE5 co-expression with rhodopsin in cultured cells showed enhanced rhodopsin expression.
Conclusion: Lowering the cGMP level in photoreceptors by PDE5 is sufficient to rescue photoreceptors in RD1 retinas. cGMP may also play a role in rhodopsin expression regulation in photoreceptors.
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