The blood-retinal barrier (BRB) selectively and tightly regulates the local environment of the neural retina. Loss of BRB integrity is a common pathology in three major causes of blindness: diabetic retinopathy;age- related macular degeneration;and retinopathy of prematurity. Recent evidence indicates that caveolin-1 (Cav- 1), an integral protein component of specialized lipid micro-domains called caveolae, is essential for normal retinal function. Cav-1 null mice display reduced retinal function in Cav-1 null mice as indicated by electroretinography (ERG) that suggested at a photoreceptor defect. However, this reduced photoreceptor function could not be explained by a direct effect on phototransduction as responses were normal in recordings from isolated Cav-1 null rods. This suggests that the functional deficit in Cav-1 null retinas results from an abnormal local environment surrounding photoreceptors. In support of this hypothesis, compelling evidence indicates that Cav-1 null mice have a hyper-permeable BRB. The increased permeability correlates with alterations in tight junctions, changes in Na/K-ATPase activity, and outer retinal edema. Cav-1 null mice provide compelling data showing a clear loss of retinal pigment epithelial and vascular barrier functions. This increased permeability alters the normal photoreceptor environment which is consistent with reduced retinal function and age-related retinal degeneration observed in these mice. Furthermore, when subjected to a stress paradigm (oxygen-induced retinopathy), Cav-1 null mice display severe sub-retinal and intra-retinal hemorrhaging. These findings clearly indicate that Cav-1 expression/function is essential for the maintenance of a robust BRB but the mechanism(s) of this regulation is unknown.
The first aim i s designed to determine the role of Cav-1 in regulating barrier activity specifically within the retinal pigment epithelium using cell-specific, inducible genetic deletion.
The second aim will test the role of Cav-1 in the structural organization of lipids and proteins in epithelial cell-cell contacts and apical process.
The final aim will focus on the role that dysregulation of the Na/K-ATPase plays and how Cav-1 regulates ATPase activity.
Loss of blood-retinal barrier integrity is a common pathology in three major causes of blindness: diabetic retinopathy;age-related macular degeneration;and retinopathy of prematurity. This project is designed to study mechanisms that regulate blood-retinal barrier integrity to define novel potential therapeutic strategies to ameliorate pathological blood-retinal barrier permeability.
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