Chad A. Galloway a , b , Sonal Dalvi a , b , Sandy S. C. Hung c , d , e , Leslie A. MacDonald a , b , Lisa R. Latchney a , Raymond C. B. Wong c , d , e , Robyn H. Guymer c , d , e , David A. Mackey f , g , h , i , David S. Williams j , k , l , m , n , Mina M. Chung a , o , David M. Gamm p , q , r , Alice Pébay c , d , e , Alex W. Hewitt c , d , e , h , i , Ruchira Singh a , b , o , 2
6 September 2017
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and related macular dystrophies (MDs) are a major cause of vision loss. However, pharmacological treatments in these diseases are limited due to the lack of knowledge of underlying disease mechanisms, partly because appropriate human models to study AMD and related MDs are lacking. Furthermore, in the living human eye, the entire retina acts as a functional unit, making it difficult to investigate the specific contribution of a particular retinal cell type in the disease. Here, we established human models of multiple MDs, which demonstrated similar molecular and phenotypic manifestations within these diseases. Furthermore, we showed that dysfunction of an individual cell type, retinal pigment epithelium cells in the retina, is sufficient for the development of key pathological features in these MDs.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and related macular dystrophies (MDs) are a major cause of vision loss. However, the mechanisms underlying their progression remain ill-defined. This is partly due to the lack of disease models recapitulating the human pathology. Furthermore, in vivo studies have yielded limited understanding of the role of specific cell types in the eye vs. systemic influences (e.g., serum) on the disease pathology. Here, we use human induced pluripotent stem cell-retinal pigment epithelium (hiPSC-RPE) derived from patients with three dominant MDs, Sorsby’s fundus dystrophy (SFD), Doyne honeycomb retinal dystrophy/malattia Leventinese (DHRD), and autosomal dominant radial drusen (ADRD), and demonstrate that dysfunction of RPE cells alone is sufficient for the initiation of sub-RPE lipoproteinaceous deposit (drusen) formation and extracellular matrix (ECM) alteration in these diseases. Consistent with clinical studies, sub-RPE basal deposits were present beneath both control (unaffected) and patient hiPSC-RPE cells. Importantly basal deposits in patient hiPSC-RPE cultures were more abundant and displayed a lipid- and protein-rich “drusen-like” composition. Furthermore, increased accumulation of COL4 was observed in ECM isolated from control vs. patient hiPSC-RPE cultures. Interestingly, RPE-specific up-regulation in the expression of several complement genes was also seen in patient hiPSC-RPE cultures of all three MDs (SFD, DHRD, and ADRD). Finally, although serum exposure was not necessary for drusen formation, COL4 accumulation in ECM, and complement pathway gene alteration, it impacted the composition of drusen-like deposits in patient hiPSC-RPE cultures. Together, the drusen model(s) of MDs described here provide fundamental insights into the unique biology of maculopathies affecting the RPE–ECM interface.