We have recently developed open-reading-frame (ORF) phage display, a technology which has the potential to join yeast two-hybrid system and mass spectrometry as a major technology of functional proteomics. To explore the versatile applications of ORF phage display, we used a functional cloning strategy to isolate eat-me signals or phagocytosis stimulating molecules in retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells and identified 9 putative eat-me signals including tubby-like protein 1 (Tulp1) and tubby. Deletion mutations of the C-terminal 44 amino acids (aa) in tubby (tubby-DC44) and Tulp1 (Tulp1-DC44) associate with retinal degeneration with undefined mechanisms. Moreover, tubby-DC44 and Tulp1-DC44 abolish their stimulation of RPE phagocytosis. The long term goal of this project is to define the disease mechanisms of tubby and Tulp1 in retinal degeneration. The objective of this application is to elucidate the role of the highly conserved C- terminal domain of tubby and Tulp1 in RPE phagocytosis. The central hypothesis of this study is that tubby and Tulp1 are bridging molecules to facilitate RPE phagocytosis by simultaneously binding to Mer tyrosine kinase (MerTK) on RPE cells and the shed photoreceptor outer segments (POS) vesicles. This hypothesis will be investigated by characterizing the C-terminal domains of tubby and Tulp1 through vesicle pull-down assays and mutational analysis to map their minimum domains that bind to photoreceptor outer segments (POS). Moreover, the function of tubby and Tulp1 C-terminal domains will be defined by identifying their protein binding partners using the newly-developed ORF phage display technology. This study will not only elucidate the pathological mechanisms of tubby and Tulp1 C-terminal mutations, but will also help promote and disseminate the new technology of ORF phage display for its broad application as an efficient, sensitive, versatile and convenient technology of functional proteomics in biomedical research.

Public Health Relevance

Mutations in the highly conserved C-terminal domains of tubby and Tulp1 are associated with defective RPE phagocytosis and retinal degeneration. Understanding the molecular role of tubby and Tulp1 will substantially increase our knowledge on the physiological and pathological roles of RPE phagocytosis in retinal degeneration. This will provide novel insights on retinal degeneration and will help us develop therapeutic strategies to prevent and treat blindness.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Eye Institute (NEI)
Research Transition Award (R00)
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Special Emphasis Panel (NSS)
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Shen, Grace L
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University of Nevada Las Vegas
Schools of Arts and Sciences
Las Vegas
United States
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Caberoy, Nora Blanca (2014) Synergistic interaction of tubby and tubby-like protein 1 (Tulp1). Adv Exp Med Biol 801:503-9