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MicroRNAs appear essential for retinal health
Date:5/7/2008

th stages. Structurally, the retinas initially appeared normal, but the cells progressively became disorganized, followed by widespread degeneration.

Retinas in animals equipped with a single form of the Dicer gene never underwent the inexorable structural decline that occurs in total absence of Dicer, but they also never functioned normally, according to electroretinograms.

We have removed Dicer from about 30 different tissues, said Harfe, a member of the UF Genetics Institute. In all of those cases with half the amount of Dicer, you still had a normal animal. In the retina, there were functional abnormalities. This is the first indication that the dose of Dicer is important for normal retinal health.

Inherited forms of retinal degeneration affect about 100,000 people in the United States, according to the National Eye Institute. The problems typically occur with the destruction of photoreceptor cells called rods and cones in the back of the eye. More than 140 genes have been linked to these diseases, which only account for a fraction of the cases.

We have many types of retinal degeneration and not enough mutations to explain them, said Enrica Strettoi, a senior researcher at the Institute of Neurosciences of the Italian National Research Council in Pisa, Italy. Finding that ablation of Dicer causes retinal degeneration might be helpful in discovering candidate disease genes. What weve done is target virtually all microRNAs in the retina by ablating Dicer, the core enzyme regulating their synthesis. The next step is to try to address each one separately, and find the role of specific microRNAs. Removal of Dicer from other areas of the central nervous system has also produced functional and structural abnormalities, confirming the fundamental role of this enzyme in neurons.

More than 400 microRNAs have been identified in both mice and humans, and each one has the potential to regulate hundreds of target genes. They have
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Contact: John Pastor
jdpastor@ufl.edu
352-273-5815
University of Florida
Source:Eurekalert

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