Purpose: Cell death by apoptosis is essential for normal development and tissue homeostasis, and it is involved also in a variety of pathologic processes. Apoptosis is the final common pathway of photoreceptor cell death in retinal dystrophies and degeneration. So far, little is known about genes regulating apoptosis in the retina. The tumor-suppressor gene product p53 is a potent regulator of apoptosis in numerous systems. However, p53-independent apoptotic pathways also have been described. In this study the authors investigated the role of p53 in the light-induced apoptosis of retinal photoreceptors using mice lacking p53.
Methods: Free-moving p53-/- and p53+/+ mice were dark adapted and were exposed to 8,500 or 15,000 lux of diffuse, cool, white fluorescent light for 2 hours. Animals were killed before and immediately after light exposure or at 12 hours in darkness after light exposure. Eyes were enucleated and processed for light and electron microscopy and histochemistry (TdT-dUTP terminal nick-end labeling method). Isolated retinas were subjected to the extraction of total retinal DNA. Electroretinogram (ERG) recordings were performed at all time points.
Results: Morphologic, biochemical, histochemical, and ERG analysis showed that the retinas of untreated p53-/- mice and wild-type control mice were structurally and functionally indistinguishable. After exposure to diffuse white fluorescent light, light-induced photoreceptor cell death was analyzed and was found to be the same in both groups of mice.
Conclusions: These data suggest that light-induced apoptosis of photoreceptors is independent of functional p53.