Purpose: Apoptosis is the final common death pathway of photoreceptors in light-induced retinal degeneration and in several animal models for retinal dystrophy. To date, little is known about gene regulation of apoptosis in the retina. The expression of the immediate early gene c-fos is upregulated concomitant with apoptosis in light-induced photoreceptor degeneration and in the rd mouse, an animal model for inherited retinal degeneration. In a recent study it was shown that c-Fos is essential for light-induced apoptosis of photoreceptors in vivo. To determine whether c-Fos is also involved in the apoptotic pathway of inherited retinal degeneration, rd/rd, c-fos -/- double-mutant mice have been generated.
Methods: Double-mutant mice (rd/rd, c-fos -/-) were crossbred from c-fos+/- mice and rd/rd mice. Their genotype was determined by polymerase chain reaction analysis of genomic DNA. Wild-type control mice and homozygous rd mice were killed at 2-day intervals from postnatal day (P)9 through P21. Double-mutant mice were killed at postnatal days P9, P11, P13, P15, and P21. To determine levels of apoptosis in the retina, eyes were enucleated and processed for light microscopy and in situ nick-end labeling. Total retinal DNA was extracted from isolated retinas for DNA fragmentation analysis.
Results: Morphologic, histochemical, and biochemical analyses showed that the time course of apoptosis and the outcome of photoreceptor degeneration in rd/rd, c-fos-/- double-mutant mice was indistinguishable from that in rd mice carrying functional c-fos.
Conclusions: These data suggest that in contrast to its role in light-induced photoreceptor degeneration, c-Fos is not essential for apoptosis in the rd mouse.