Do multiple physiological OCT biomarkers indicate age-related decline in rod mitochondrial function in C57BL/6J mice?

Front Neurosci. 2023 Nov 17:17:1280453. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2023.1280453. eCollection 2023.


Purpose: To test the hypothesis that rod photoreceptor mitochondria function in vivo progressively declines over time.

Methods: 2, 12, and 24 month-old dark- and light-adapted C57BL/6J (B6J) mice were examined by OCT. We measured (i) an index of mitochondrial configuration within photoreceptors measured from the profile shape aspect ratio (MCP/AR) of the hyperreflective band posterior to the external limiting membrane (ELM), (ii) a proxy for energy-dependent pH-triggered water removal, the thickness of the ELM-retinal pigment epithelium (ELM-RPE), and its correlate (iii) the hyporeflective band (HB) signal intensity at the photoreceptor tips. Visual performance was assessed by optokinetic tracking.

Results: In 2 and 24 month-old mice, MCP/AR in both inferior and superior retina was smaller in light than in dark; no dark-light differences were noted in 12 month-old mice. Dark-adapted inferior and superior, and light-adapted superior, ELM-RPE thickness increased with age. The dark-light difference in ELM-RPE thickness remained constant across all ages. All ages showed a decreased HB signal intensity magnitude in dark relative to light. In 12 month-old mice, the dark-light difference in HB magnitude was greater than in younger and older mice. Anatomically, outer nuclear layer thickness decreased with age. Visual performance indices were reduced at 24 month-old compared to 2 month-old mice.

Conclusion: While the working hypothesis was not supported herein, the results raise the possibility of a mid-life adaptation in rod mitochondrial function during healthy aging in B6J mice based on OCT biomarkers, a plasticity that occurred prior to declines in visual performance.

Keywords: OCT; aging; biomarker; energy; mitochondria; photoreceptor; plasticity.