In conditions in which the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) is dystrophic, carries a genetic mutation, or is removed physically, Müller cells undergo degenerative changes that contribute to the retinal pathology. We previously demonstrated that pigment epithelium-derived factor (PEDF), a glycoprotein secreted by the RPE cells with neuroprotective and differentiation properties, protects against photoreceptor degeneration induced by RPE removal. The purpose of the present study was to analyze the putative gliosupportive activity of PEDF on Müller cells of RPE-deprived retinas and assess whether protection of Müller cells was correlated with improved photoreceptor outer segment assembly. Eyes were dissected from Xenopus laevis tadpoles, and the RPE was removed before culturing in medium containing purified PEDF, PEDF plus anti-PEDF, or medium alone. Control eyes matured with an adherent RPE or in medium containing PEDF plus nonimmune serum. Müller cell ultrastructure was examined. Glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and glutamine synthetase were localized immunocytochemically, and the corresponding protein levels were quantified. In control retinas, Müller cells were structurally intact and formed adherens junctions with neighboring photoreceptors. In addition, they did not express GFAP, whereas glutamine synthetase expression was high. RPE removal dramatically altered the ultrastructure and biosynthetic activity of Müller cells; Müller cells failed to form adherens junctions with photoreceptors and glutamine synthetase expression was suppressed. PEDF prevented the degenerative glial response; Müller cells were ultrastructurally normal and formed junctional complexes with photoreceptors. PEDF also preserved the expression of glutamine synthetase at near-normal levels. The morphogenetic effects of PEDF were blocked by the anti-PEDF antibody. Our study documents the glioprotective effects of PEDF and suggests that maintenance of the proper Müller cell ultrastructure and expression of glutamine synthetase may be necessary to support the proper assembly of photoreceptor outer segments.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience