Disruption of the polyubiquitin gene Ubb causes retinal degeneration in mice

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2019 May 21;513(1):35-40. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2019.03.164. Epub 2019 Mar 29.


We have previously demonstrated that a reduction in ubiquitin (Ub) levels via disruption of the polyubiquitin gene Ubb results in reactive gliosis and hypothalamic neurodegeneration in mice. However, it is not known whether other neural tissues, apart from the brain, can also be affected by Ubb disruption. We examined the retina, which, being derived from the diencephalon, has the same developmental origin as the hypothalamus. We found that expression levels of Ubb were much higher than those of the other polyubiquitin gene Ubc in the retina. In retinal tissues from Ubb knockout (KO) mice, we found that Ubc expression was upregulated to compensate for the loss of Ubb; however, the Ub pool remained disrupted, with reduced levels of free Ub. To directly demonstrate whether the disrupted Ub pools affect neural integrity in retinal tissues, we investigated retinal layers in control and Ubb KO mice. Using optical coherence tomography and histological analysis, we demonstrated that the thickness of the outer nuclear layer of the retina was decreased in Ubb KO mice compared to control mice, suggesting that retinal degeneration was induced by Ub deficiency. Furthermore, the mRNA and protein levels of rhodopsin decreased and those of glial fibrillary acidic protein increased in Ubb KO mouse retinas. Therefore, the maintenance of Ub pools in the retina appears to be crucial for the survival of photoreceptor cells and the prevention of excessive glial cell activation.

Keywords: Degeneration; Outer nuclear layer; Photoreceptor; Retina; Ubiquitin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gene Knockout Techniques
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Polyubiquitin / analysis
  • Polyubiquitin / genetics*
  • Retina / pathology*
  • Retinal Degeneration / genetics*
  • Retinal Degeneration / pathology
  • Ubiquitin / analysis
  • Ubiquitin / genetics*


  • Ubb protein, mouse
  • Ubiquitin
  • Polyubiquitin