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All eyes on retinal degeneration
Date:2/16/2010

f PDH doesn't make new light-sensing molecules, and flies can recycle them using light anyway, why are these flies losing their light-detecting molecules and consequently their sight?"

As it turns out, Montell and his team found PDH is required to help recycle the used light-capturing molecules in a previously unrecognized visual cycle in flies. Flies can recycle the molecules by absorbing light, but eventually the protein that holds the molecules in the cells needs to be replaced with new protein. When this happens the biochemical visual cycle is needed to regenerate the light sensing molecules. Over time, in pdh mutant flies, without a functional visual cycle, the used light-sensitive molecules were not regenerated causing cells in the retina to die, leading to vision loss.

To get an idea of how comparable the visual cycle is in flies and mammals, the team replaced the fly gene for PDH with a gene for a similar mammalian enzyme. These flies had normal electrical activity in cells of the retina in response to light, were able to maintain proper levels of light sensitive molecules, and had healthy retinas. This experiment showed the researchers that there are similarities in the visual cycles in mammals and flies.

"Flies are a good model in which to study and test new therapies for retinal degeneration," says Montell. "This research opens the door to using flies as a way to look for drugs to reduce human retinal degeneration due to defects in the visual cycle."


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Contact: Audrey Huang
audrey@jhmi.edu
410-614-5105
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Source:Eurekalert

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