Histopathology of the Retina from a Three Year-Old Suspected to Have Joubert Syndrome

Austin J Clin Ophthalmol. 2015;2(4):1057. Epub 2015 Sep 21.


Purpose: To define the retinal pathology in a 3 year-old eye donor who died from complications of an undiagnosed genetic syndrome.

Methods: Eyes were fixed and analyzed using macroscopic fundus photography (MF), confocal scanning laser ophthalmoscopy (cSLO) and spectral-domain optical coherence tomography (SD-OCT). Small areas from the perifovea and periphery were processed for histology and indirect immunofluorescence, using antibodies specific to retinal proteins such as rhodopsin, cone arrestin, RPE65 and others. Available medical records were also reviewed.

Results: With all three imaging modalities, the affected donor's eyes lacked the distinct morphological detail typically observed with these techniques in postmortem control eyes. MF images showed a "photonegative effect" due to a hypopigmented macula relative to a hyperpigmented retinal background. cSLO imaging demonstrated a weak autofuorescence signal that was largely devoid of the usual retinal structures compared to the control. SD-OCT suggested disorganization of the affected retina, absence of a photoreceptor layer, and degeneration of the choroid in the macular area. Histologic findings indicated a highly disorganized photoreceptor layer in the macula and periphery. The RPE layer displayed thinning in some regions of the periphery and decreased pigmentation in most areas. Rods and cones were significantly reduced in the affected retina but a few cones were detected in the perifovea. Centrin-2 labeling was mostly absent from the connecting cilium of the photoreceptor cells. Medical record review pointed to a possible clinical diagnosis of Joubert syndrome.

Conclusions: The retinal degenerative findings, and absence of centrin-2 labeling are compatible with the expected retinal phenotype in patients with Joubert syndrome.

Keywords: Disorganized photoreceptors; Genetic abnormalities; Histology; Immunohistochemistry; Retina.