Open Access Technical advance

℮-conome: an automated tissue counting platform of cone photoreceptors for rodent models of retinitis pigmentosa

Emmanuelle Clérin123, Nicolas Wicker4, Saddek Mohand-Saïd123, Olivier Poch4, José-Alain Sahel123 and Thierry Léveillard123*

Author Affiliations

1 INSERM, U968, Paris, F-75012, France

2 UPMC Univ Paris 06, UMR-S 968, Institut de la Vision, Paris, F-75012, France

3 CNRS, UMR- 7210, Paris, F-75012, France

4 IGBMC, Laboratoire de Bioinformatique et Génomique Intégratives, 67404 Illkirch, France

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BMC Ophthalmology 2011, 11:38  doi:10.1186/1471-2415-11-38

Published: 20 December 2011



Retinitis pigmentosa is characterized by the sequential loss of rod and cone photoreceptors. The preservation of cones would prevent blindness due to their essential role in human vision. Rod-derived Cone Viability Factor is a thioredoxin-like protein that is secreted by rods and is involved in cone survival. To validate the activity of Rod-derived Cone Viability Factors (RdCVFs) as therapeutic agents for treating retinitis Pigmentosa, we have developed e-conome, an automated cell counting platform for retinal flat mounts of rodent models of cone degeneration. This automated quantification method allows for faster data analysis thereby accelerating translational research.


An inverted fluorescent microscope, motorized and coupled to a CCD camera records images of cones labeled with fluorescent peanut agglutinin lectin on flat-mounted retinas. In an average of 300 fields per retina, nine Z-planes at magnification X40 are acquired after two-stage autofocus individually for each field. The projection of the stack of 9 images is subject to a threshold, filtered to exclude aberrant images based on preset variables. The cones are identified by treating the resulting image using 13 variables empirically determined. The cone density is calculated over the 300 fields.


The method was validated by comparison to the conventional stereological counting. The decrease in cone density in rd1 mouse was found to be equivalent to the decrease determined by stereological counting. We also studied the spatiotemporal pattern of the degeneration of cones in the rd1 mouse and show that while the reduction in cone density starts in the central part of the retina, cone degeneration progresses at the same speed over the whole retinal surface. We finally show that for mice with an inactivation of the Nucleoredoxin-like genes Nxnl1 or Nxnl2 encoding RdCVFs, the loss of cones is more pronounced in the ventral retina.


The automated platform ℮-conome used here for retinal disease is a tool that can broadly accelerate translational research for neurodegenerative diseases.