Compartmentalized citrullination in Muller glial endfeet during retinal degeneration

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2022 Mar 1;119(9):e2121875119. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2121875119.


Muller glia (MG) play a central role in reactive gliosis, a stress response associated with rare and common retinal degenerative diseases, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The posttranslational modification citrullination​ targeting glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) in MG was initially discovered in a panocular chemical injury model. Here, we report in the paradigms of retinal laser injury, a genetic model of spontaneous retinal degeneration (JR5558 mice) and human wet-AMD tissues that MG citrullination is broadly conserved. After laser injury, GFAP polymers that accumulate in reactive MG are citrullinated in MG endfeet and glial cell processes. The enzyme responsible for citrullination, peptidyl arginine deiminase-4 (PAD4), localizes to endfeet and associates with GFAP polymers. Glial cell-specific PAD4 deficiency attenuates retinal hypercitrullination in injured retinas, indicating PAD4 requirement for MG citrullination. In retinas of 1-mo-old JR5558 mice, hypercitrullinated GFAP and PAD4 accumulate in MG endfeet/cell processes in a lesion-specific manner. Finally, we show that human donor maculae from patients with wet-AMD also feature the canonical endfeet localization of hypercitrullinated GFAP. Thus, we propose that endfeet are a "citrullination bunker" that initiates and sustains citrullination in retinal degeneration.

Keywords: GFAP; Muller glial endfeet; citrullination; gliosis; retinal degeneration.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Citrullination*
  • Gliosis / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Neuroglia / metabolism*
  • Retinal Degeneration / metabolism*
  • Wet Macular Degeneration / metabolism