Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of bilateral blindness, affecting nearly 57 million people worldwide. Glaucoma is characterized by a progressive loss of retinal ganglion cells and is often associated with intraocular pressure (IOP). Normal tension glaucoma (NTG), marked by normal IOP but progressive glaucoma, is incompletely understood. In 2002, Sarfarazi et al. identified FIP-2 gene mutations responsible for hereditary NTG, renaming this gene "optineurin" (OPTN). Further investigations by multiple groups worldwide showed that OPTN is involved in several critical cellular functions, such as NF-κB regulation, autophagy, and vesicle transport. Recently, OPTN mutations were found to cause amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Surprisingly, a mutation in the OPTN interacting protein, i.e., the duplication of TANK binding protein 1 (TBK1) gene, also can cause both NTG and ALS. These phenotypically distinct neuronal diseases are now merging into one common pathological mechanism by these two genes. TBK1 inhibition has emerged as a potential therapy for NTG. In this manuscript, we focus on the OPTN E50K mutation, the most common mutation for NTG, to describe the molecular mechanism of NTG by expressing a mutant Optn gene in cells and genetically modified mice. Patient iPS cells were developed and differentiated into neural cells to observe abnormal behavior and the impact of the E50K mutation. These in vitro studies were further extended to identify the inhibitors BX795 and amlexanox, which have the potential to reverse the disease-causing phenomenon in patient's neural cells. Here we show for the first time that amlexanox protects RGCs in Optn E50K knock-in mice.
Keywords: Amlexanox; BX795; Glaucoma; Knock-in mouse; Optineurin; Retinal ganglion cells; TANK binding kinase I (TBK1); TBK1 inhibitor; iPS cells.
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