Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and associated inherited retinal diseases (IRDs) are caused by rod photoreceptor degeneration, necessitating therapeutics promoting rod photoreceptor survival. To address this, we tested compounds for neuroprotective effects in multiple zebrafish and mouse RP models, reasoning drugs effective across species and/or independent of disease mutation may translate better clinically. We first performed a large-scale phenotypic drug screen for compounds promoting rod cell survival in a larval zebrafish model of inducible RP. We tested 2,934 compounds, mostly human-approved drugs, across six concentrations, resulting in 113 compounds being identified as hits. Secondary tests of 42 high-priority hits confirmed eleven lead candidates. Leads were then evaluated in a series of mouse RP models in an effort to identify compounds effective across species and RP models, i.e., potential pan-disease therapeutics. Nine of eleven leads exhibited neuroprotective effects in mouse primary photoreceptor cultures, and three promoted photoreceptor survival in mouse rd1 retinal explants. Both shared and complementary mechanisms of action were implicated across leads. Shared target tests implicated parp1-dependent cell death in our zebrafish RP model. Complementation tests revealed enhanced and additive/synergistic neuroprotective effects of paired drug combinations in mouse photoreceptor cultures and zebrafish, respectively. These results highlight the value of cross-species/multi-model phenotypic drug discovery and suggest combinatorial drug therapies may provide enhanced therapeutic benefits for RP patients.
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- Jeff S Mumm
- Donald J Zack
- Baerbel Rohrer
- Baerbel Rohrer
- Baerbel Rohrer
- Jun O Liu
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
Animal experimentation: All animal studies described herein were performed in accordance with both the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) statement on the "Use of Animals in Ophthalmic and Vision Research" and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW) policies regarding studies conducted in vertebrate species. Animal protocols were approved by the Animal Care and Use Committees of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (protocol # FI19M489 and #MO20M253) and Medical University of South Carolina (protocol #2018-00399).
- James J Dowling, The Hospital for Sick Children, Canada
© 2021, Zhang et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
Neurogenesis is the generation of neurons from stem cells, a process that is regulated by SoxB transcription factors (TFs) in many animals. Although the roles of these TFs are well understood in bilaterians, how their neural function evolved is unclear. Here, we use Hydractinia symbiolongicarpus, a member of the early-branching phylum Cnidaria, to provide insight into this question. Using a combination of mRNA in situ hybridization, transgenesis, gene knockdown, transcriptomics, and in-vivo imaging, we provide a comprehensive molecular and cellular analysis of neurogenesis during embryogenesis, homeostasis, and regeneration in this animal. We show that SoxB genes act sequentially at least in some cases. Stem cells expressing Piwi1 and Soxb1, which have a broad developmental potential, become neural progenitors that express Soxb2 before differentiating into mature neural cells. Knockdown of SoxB genes resulted in complex defects in embryonic neurogenesis. Hydractinia neural cells differentiate while migrating from the aboral to the oral end of the animal, but it is unclear whether migration per se or exposure to different microenvironments is the main driver of their fate determination. Our data constitute a rich resource for studies aiming at addressing this question, which is at the heart of understanding the origin and development of animal nervous systems.
Organ architecture is often composed of multiple laminar tissues arranged in concentric layers. During morphogenesis, the initial geometry of visceral organs undergoes a sequence of folding, adopting a complex shape that is vital for function. Genetic signals are known to impact form, yet the dynamic and mechanical interplay of tissue layers giving rise to organs' complex shapes remains elusive. Here, we trace the dynamics and mechanical interactions of a developing visceral organ across tissue layers, from sub-cellular to organ scale in vivo. Combining deep tissue light-sheet microscopy for in toto live visualization with a novel computational framework for multilayer analysis of evolving complex shapes, we find a dynamic mechanism for organ folding using the embryonic midgut of Drosophila as a model visceral organ. Hox genes, known regulators of organ shape, control the emergence of high-frequency calcium pulses. Spatiotemporally patterned calciumpulses triggermuscle contractions via myosin light chain kinase. Muscle contractions, in turn, induce cell shape change in the adjacent tissue layer. This cell shape change collectively drives a convergent extension pattern. Through tissue incompressibility and initial organ geometry, this in-plane shape change is linked to out-of-plane organ folding. Our analysis follows tissue dynamics during organ shape change in vivo, tracing organ-scale folding to a high-frequency molecular mechanism. These findings offer a mechanical route for gene expression to induce organ shape change: genetic patterning in one layer triggers a physical process in the adjacent layer - revealing post-translational mechanisms that govern shape change.