Loss of Ikbkap Causes Slow, Progressive Retinal Degeneration in a Mouse Model of Familial Dysautonomia
Yumi Ueki, Grisela Ramirez, Ernesto Salcedo, Maureen E. Stabio, Frances Lefcort
Familial dysautonomia (FD) is an autosomal recessive congenital neuropathy that is caused by a mutation in the gene for inhibitor of kappa B kinase complex-associated protein (IKBKAP). Although FD patients suffer from multiple neuropathies, a major debilitation that affects their quality of life is progressive blindness. To determine the requirement for Ikbkap in the developing and adult retina, we generated Ikbkap conditional knockout (CKO) mice using a TUBA1a promoter-Cre (T?1-Cre). In the retina, T?1-Cre expression is detected predominantly in retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). At 6 months, significant loss of RGCs had occurred in the CKO retinas, with the greatest loss in the temporal retina, which is the same spatial phenotype observed in FD, Leber hereditary optic neuropathy, and dominant optic atrophy. Interestingly, the melanopsin-positive RGCs were resistant to degeneration. By 9 months, signs of photoreceptor degeneration were observed, which later progressed to panretinal degeneration, including RGC and photoreceptor loss, optic nerve thinning, Müller glial activation, and disruption of layers. Taking these results together, we conclude that although Ikbkap is not required for normal development of RGCs, its loss causes a slow, progressive RGC degeneration most severely in the temporal retina, which is later followed by indirect photoreceptor loss and complete retinal disorganization. This mouse model of FD is not only useful for identifying the mechanisms mediating retinal degeneration, but also provides a model system in which to attempt to test therapeutics that may mitigate the loss of vision in FD patients.
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