Retinoschisin Deficiency Induces Persistent Aberrant Waves of Activity Affecting Neuroglial Signaling in the Retina

J Neurosci. 2022 Sep 7;42(36):6983-7000. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2128-21.2022.


Genetic disorders that present during development make treatment strategies particularly challenging because there is a need to disentangle primary pathophysiology from downstream dysfunction caused at key developmental stages. To provide a deeper insight into this question, we studied a mouse model of X-linked juvenile retinoschisis, an early-onset inherited condition caused by mutations in the Rs1 gene encoding retinoschisin (RS1) and characterized by cystic retinal lesions and early visual deficits. Using an unbiased approach in expressing the fast intracellular calcium indicator GCaMP6f in neuronal, glial, and vascular cells of the retina of RS1-deficient male mice, we found that initial cyst formation is paralleled by the appearance of aberrant spontaneous neuroglial signals as early as postnatal day 15, when eyes normally open. These presented as glutamate-driven wavelets of neuronal activity and sporadic radial bursts of activity by Müller glia, spanning all retinal layers and disrupting light-induced signaling. This study confers a role to RS1 beyond its function as an adhesion molecule, identifies an early onset for dysfunction in the course of disease, establishing a potential window for disease diagnosis and therapeutic intervention.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Developmental disorders make it difficult to distinguish pathophysiology due to ongoing disease from pathophysiology due to disrupted development. Here, we investigated a mouse model for X-linked retinoschisis, a well defined monogenic degenerative disease caused by mutations in the Rs1 gene, which codes for the protein retinoschisin. We evaluated the spontaneous activity of explanted retinas lacking retinoschisin at key stages of development using the unbiased approach of ubiquitously expressing GCaMP6f in all retinal neurons, vasculature, and glia. In mice lacking RS1, we found that an array of novel phenotypes, which present around eye opening, are linked to glutamatergic neurotransmission and affect visual processing. These data identify a novel pathophysiology linked to RS1, and define a window where treatments might be best targeted.

Keywords: aberrant activity; neuroglia; optophysiology; retinal waves; retinoschisin.