Retinal degenerative diseases, such as macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa, are among the leading causes of blindness. Current treatment strategies are aimed at restoring light sensitivity, and assume that surviving retinal circuitry remains relatively intact as photoreceptors degenerate. This paradigm is being challenged by recent findings that reveal a massive structural remodeling of the retina during and after photoreceptor death;retinal circuits compensate for the loss of photoreceptor input during a phased process of remodeling. Although such changes could preclude every aspect of retinal repair by forming networks incapable of transmitting visual signals, the synaptic basis for these changes is unknown. To fill in this gap, in Aim 1, we will record resting activity of identified retinal ganglion cells in mouse models of retinal degeneration to determine the synaptic mechanisms responsible for altered retinal output during progression of the disease.
In Aim 2, we will drive retinal circuits with presynaptic stimuli to determine the ability of ganglion cells to process synaptically-evoked responses. Since ganglion cells are the output neurons of the retina, their synaptic inputs reflect the functional state of the retinal circuits responsible for visual processing. Identifying these changes could help to reduce the impact of retinal degeneration by providing new targets to repair or prevent retinal dysfunction.

Public Health Relevance

Progressive photoreceptor cell loss, regardless of its underlying cause, is a hallmark of retinal degenerative diseases that lead to blindness. The retinal network is dynamic as surviving cells seek alternative sources of excitation during the loss of sensory input. It is unknown how plastic changes during retinal degenerations would affect the potential for recovery. The proposed project will establish how the loss of photoreceptor-driven activity affects the physiological properties of the downstream retinal network. By identifying disruptive changes in retinal physiology that accompany photoreceptor degeneration, this study will provide novel targets to treat or prevent visual dysfunction during retinal degenerative diseases.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Eye Institute (NEI)
Research Project (R01)
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Biology and Diseases of the Posterior Eye Study Section (BDPE)
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Greenwell, Thomas
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Winifred Masterson Burke Med Research Institute
White Plains
United States
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Yee, Christopher W; Ivanova, Elena; Toychiev, Abduqodir H et al. (2018) Atypical Expression and Activation of GluN2A- and GluN2B-Containing NMDA Receptors at Ganglion Cells during Retinal Degeneration. Neuroscience 393:61-72
Dvoriantchikova, Galina; Pronin, Alexey; Kurtenbach, Sarah et al. (2018) Pannexin 1 sustains the electrophysiological responsiveness of retinal ganglion cells. Sci Rep 8:5797
Ivanova, Elena; Yee, Christopher W; Sagdullaev, Botir T (2016) Leveraging Optogenetic-Based Neurovascular Circuit Characterization for Repair. Neurotherapeutics 13:341-7
Ivanova, Elena; Yee, Christopher W; Sagdullaev, Botir T (2016) Disruption in dopaminergic innervation during photoreceptor degeneration. J Comp Neurol 524:1208-21
Ivanova, Elena; Yee, Christopher W; Baldoni Jr, Robert et al. (2016) Aberrant activity in retinal degeneration impairs central visual processing and relies on Cx36-containing gap junctions. Exp Eye Res 150:81-9
Ivanova, Elena; Yee, Christopher W; Sagdullaev, Botir T (2015) Increased phosphorylation of Cx36 gap junctions in the AII amacrine cells of RD retina. Front Cell Neurosci 9:390
Ivanova, Elena; Toychiev, Abduqodir H; Yee, Christopher W et al. (2014) Intersublaminar vascular plexus: the correlation of retinal blood vessels with functional sublaminae of the inner plexiform layer. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 55:78-86
Yee, Christopher W; Toychiev, Abduqodir H; Ivanova, Elena et al. (2014) Aberrant synaptic input to retinal ganglion cells varies with morphology in a mouse model of retinal degeneration. J Comp Neurol 522:4085-99
Ivanova, Elena; Toychiev, Abduqodir H; Yee, Christopher W et al. (2013) Optimized protocol for retinal wholemount preparation for imaging and immunohistochemistry. J Vis Exp :e51018
Tschetter, Wayne W; Alam, Nazia M; Yee, Christopher W et al. (2013) Experience-enabled enhancement of adult visual cortex function. J Neurosci 33:5362-6

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