Inherited retinal degenerations (IRDs) are characterized by the progressive loss of photoreceptors and represent one of the most prevalent causes of blindness among working-age populations. Cyclic nucleotide dysregulation is a common pathological feature linked to numerous forms of IRD, yet the precise mechanisms through which this contributes to photoreceptor death remain elusive. Here we demonstrate that cAMP induced upregulation of the dependence receptor neogenin in the retina. Neogenin levels were also elevated in both human and murine degenerating photoreceptors. We found that overexpressing neogenin in mouse photoreceptors was sufficient to induce cell death, whereas silencing neogenin in degenerating murine photoreceptors promoted survival, thus identifying a pro-death signal in IRDs. A possible treatment strategy is modeled whereby peptide neutralization of neogenin in Rd1, Rd10, and Rho P23H–knockin mice promotes rod and cone survival and rescues visual function as measured by light-evoked retinal ganglion cell recordings, scotopic/photopic electroretinogram recordings, and visual acuity tests. These results expose neogenin as a critical link between cAMP and photoreceptor death, and identify a druggable target for the treatment of retinal degeneration.
Jason Charish, Alireza P. Shabanzadeh, Danian Chen, Patrick Mehlen, Santhosh Sethuramanujam, Hidekiyo Harada, Vera L. Bonilha, Gautam Awatramani, Rod Bremner, Philippe P. Monnier