The major pathway for the production of the low-abundance membrane lipid phosphatidylinositol 3-phosphate (PI(3)P) synthesis is catalyzed by class III phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) Vps34. The absence of Vps34 was previously found to disrupt autophagy and other membrane-trafficking pathways in some sensory neurons, but the roles of phosphatidylinositol 3-phosphate and Vps34 in cone photoreceptor cells have not previously been explored. We found that the deletion of Vps34 in neighboring rods in mouse retina did not disrupt cone function up to 8 weeks after birth, despite diminished rod function. Immunoblotting and lipid analysis of cones isolated from the cone-dominant retinas of the neural retina leucine zipper gene knockout mice revealed that both PI(3)P and Vps34 protein are present in mouse cones. To determine whether Vps34 and PI(3)P are important for cone function, we conditionally deleted Vps34 in cone photoreceptor cells of the mouse retina. Overall retinal morphology and rod function appeared to be unaffected. However, the loss of Vps34 in cones resulted in the loss of structure and function. There was a substantial reduction throughout the retina in the number of cones staining for M-opsin, S-opsin, cone arrestin, and peanut agglutinin, revealing degeneration of cones. These studies indicate that class III PI3K, and presumably PI(3)P, play essential roles in cone photoreceptor cell function and survival.
Keywords: Vps34; class III PI3K; cone photoreceptor cells; phosphatidylinositol 3-phosphate; phosphoinositides; phosphorylation; retinal degeneration.