Critical Role for Phosphatidylinositol-3 Kinase Vps34/PIK3C3 in ON-Bipolar Cells

Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2019 Jul 1;60(8):2861-2874. doi: 10.1167/iovs.19-26586.


Purpose: Phosphatidylinositol-3-phosphate (PI(3)P), and Vps34, the type III phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase primarily responsible for its production, are important for function and survival of sensory neurons, where they have key roles in membrane processing events, such as autophagy, endosome processing, and fusion of membranes bearing ubiquitinated cargos with lysosomes. We examined their roles in the most abundant class of secondary neurons in the vertebrate retina, the ON-bipolar cells (ON-BCs).

Methods: A conditional Vps34 knockout mouse line was generated by crossing Vps34 floxed mice with transgenic mice expressing Cre recombinase in ON-BCs. Structural changes in the retina were determined by immunofluorescence and electron microscopy, and bipolar cell function was determined by electroretinography.

Results: Vps34 deletion led to selective death of ON-BCs, a thinning of the inner nuclear layer, and a progressive decline of electroretinogram b-wave amplitudes. There was no evidence for loss of other retinal neurons, or disruption of rod-horizontal cell contacts in the outer plexiform layer. Loss of Vps34 led to aberrant accumulation of membranes positive for autophagy markers LC3, p62, and ubiquitin, accumulation of endosomal membranes positive for Rab7, and accumulation of lysosomes. Similar effects were observed in Purkinje cells of the cerebellum, leading to severe and progressive ataxia.

Conclusions: These results support an essential role for PI(3)P in fusion of autophagosomes with lysosomes and in late endosome maturation. The cell death resulting from Vps34 knockout suggests that these processes are essential for the health of ON-BCs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autophagosomes
  • Class III Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / physiology*
  • Electroporation
  • Electroretinography
  • Lysosomes
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / metabolism
  • Plasmids / genetics
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc / metabolism
  • Retinal Bipolar Cells / cytology
  • Retinal Bipolar Cells / metabolism*
  • Ubiquitin / metabolism
  • rab GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • rab7 GTP-Binding Proteins


  • Map1lc3b protein, mouse
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc
  • Ubiquitin
  • rab7 GTP-Binding Proteins
  • rab7 GTP-binding proteins, mouse
  • Class III Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • PIK3C3 protein, mouse
  • rab GTP-Binding Proteins