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Loss of Extracellular Signal-Regulated Kinase 1/2 in the Retinal Pigment Epithelium Leads to RPE65 Decrease and Retinal Degeneration.

Pyakurel A, Balmer D, Saba-El-Leil MK, Kizilyaprak C, Daraspe J, Humbel BM, Voisin L, Le YZ, von Lintig J, Meloche S, Roduit R

Department of Ophthalmology, University of Lausanne, Jules-Gonin Eye Hospital, Fondation Asile des Aveugles, Lausanne, Switzerland.

Recent work suggested that the activity of extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) is increased in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) patients and therefore could be an attractive therapeutic target. Notably, ERK1/2 pathway inhibitors are used in cancer therapy, with severe and noncharacterized ocular side effects. To decipher the role of ERK1/2 in RPE cells, we conditionally disrupted the Erk1 and Erk2 genes in mouse RPE. The loss of ERK1/2 activity resulted in a significant decrease in the level of RPE65 expression, a decrease in ocular retinoid levels concomitant with low visual function, and a rapid disorganization of RPE cells, ultimately leading to retinal degeneration. Our results identify the ERK1/2 pathway as a direct regulator of the visual cycle and a critical component of the viability of RPE and photoreceptor cells. Moreover, our results caution about the need for a very fine adjustment of kinase inhibition in cancer or ARMD treatment in order to avoid ocular side effects.

Mol. Cell. Biol. 2017;37(24).

Pubmed ID: 29038159

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