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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Cyclic intensive light exposure induces retinal lesions similar to age-related macular degeneration in APPswe/PS1 bigenic mice

Zhizhang Dong1, Juan Li1, Yunxia Leng1, Xuerong Sun1, Huiling Hu1, Yuan He1, Zhiqun Tan23* and Jian Ge1*

Author Affiliations

1 State Key Laboratory of Ophthalmology, Zhongshan Ophthalmic Center, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China

2 Department of Neurology, University of California Irvine School of Medicine, Irvine, CA 92697, USA

3 Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders, University of California Irvine School of Medicine, Irvine, CA 92697, USA

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BMC Neuroscience 2012, 13:34  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-13-34

Published: 24 March 2012

Abstract

Background

Intensive light exposure and beta-amyloid (Aβ) aggregates have been known as a risk factor for macular degeneration and an important component in the pathologic drusen structure involved in this disorder, respectively. However, it is unknown whether Aβ deposition mediates or exacerbates light exposure-induced pathogenesis of macular degeneration. Several studies including the one from us already showed accumulation of Aβ deposits in the retina in Alzheimer's transgenic mice. Using histopathological analysis combined with electroretinographic functional assessment, we investigated the effects of cyclic intensive light exposure (CILE) on the architecture of retina and related function in the APPswe/PS1bigenic mouse.

Results

Histopathological analysis has found significant loss of outer nuclear layer/photoreceptor outer segment and outer plexiform layer along with abnormal hypo- and hyper-pigmentation in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), remarkable choroidal neovascularization (CNV), and exaggerated neuroinflammatory responses in the outer retina of APPswe/PS1 bigenic mice following cyclic intensive light exposure (CILE), whereas controls remained little change contrasted with age-matched non-transgenic littermates. CILE-induced degenerative changes in RPE are further confirmed by transmission electron microcopy and manifest as formation of basal laminar deposits, irregular thickening of Bruch's membrane (BrM), deposition of outer collagenous layer (OCL) in the subretinal space, and vacuolation in the RPE. Immunofluorescence microscopy reveals drusenoid Aβ deposits in RPE as well as neovessels attached which are associated with disruption of RPE integrity and provoked neuroinflammatory response as indicated by markedly increased retinal infiltration of microglia. Moreover, both immunohistochemistry and Western blots detect an induction of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in RPE, which corroborates increased CNV in the outer retina in the bigenic mice challenged by CILE.

Conclusions

Our findings demonstrate that degenerative changes in the outer retina in the APPswe/PS1 bigenic mouse induced by CILE are consistent with these in AMD. These results suggest that an Alzheimer's transgenic animal model with accumulation of Aβ deposits might be an alternative animal model for AMD, if combined with other confounding factors such as intensive light exposure for AMD.