Photoreceptor metabolic reprogramming: current understanding and therapeutic implications

Commun Biol. 2021 Feb 24;4(1):245. doi: 10.1038/s42003-021-01765-3.


Acquired and inherited retinal disorders are responsible for vision loss in an increasing proportion of individuals worldwide. Photoreceptor (PR) death is central to the vision loss individuals experience in these various retinal diseases. Unfortunately, there is a lack of treatment options to prevent PR loss, so an urgent unmet need exists for therapies that improve PR survival and ultimately, vision. The retina is one of the most energy demanding tissues in the body, and this is driven in large part by the metabolic needs of PRs. Recent studies suggest that disruption of nutrient availability and regulation of cell metabolism may be a unifying mechanism in PR death. Understanding retinal cell metabolism and how it is altered in disease has been identified as a priority area of research. The focus of this review is on the recent advances in the understanding of PR metabolism and how it is critical to reduction-oxidation (redox) balance, the outer retinal metabolic ecosystem, and retinal disease. The importance of these metabolic processes is just beginning to be realized and unraveling the metabolic and redox pathways integral to PR health may identify novel targets for neuroprotective strategies that prevent blindness in the heterogenous group of retinal disorders.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Death
  • Cellular Reprogramming*
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Metabolome
  • Metabolomics
  • Photoreceptor Cells / metabolism*
  • Photoreceptor Cells / pathology
  • Retinal Diseases / metabolism*
  • Retinal Diseases / pathology
  • Retinal Diseases / physiopathology
  • Retinal Diseases / therapy
  • Vision Disorders / metabolism*
  • Vision Disorders / pathology
  • Vision Disorders / physiopathology
  • Vision Disorders / therapy
  • Vision, Ocular*