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Eberly College of Arts and Sciences




Retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) degeneration is potentially involved in the pathogenesis of several retinal degenerative diseases. mTORC1 signaling is shown as a crucial regulator of many biological processes and disease progression. In this study, we aimed at investigating the role of mTORC1 signaling in RPE degeneration.

Methods: Western blots were conducted to detect mTORC1 expression pattern during RPE degeneration. Cre-loxP system was used to generate RPE-specific mTORC1 activation mice. Fundus, immunofluorescence staining, transmission electron microscopy, and targeted metabolomic analysis were conducted to determine the effects of mTORC1 activation on RPE degeneration in vivo. Electroretinography, spectral-domain optical coherence tomography, and histological experiments were conducted to determine the effects of mTORC1 activation on choroidal and retinal function in vivo.

Results: RPE-specific activation of mTORC1 led to RPE degeneration as shown by the loss of RPE-specific marker, compromised cell junction integrity, and intracellular accumulation of lipid droplets. RPE degeneration further led to abnormal choroidal and retinal function. The inhibition of mTORC1 signaling with rapamycin could partially reverse RPE degeneration. Targeted metabolomics analysis further revealed that mTORC1 activation affected the metabolism of purine, carboxylic acid, and niacin in RPE.

Conclusion: This study revealed that abnormal activation of mTORC1 signaling leads to RPE degeneration, which could provide a promising target for the treatment of RPE dysfunction-related diseases.

Source Citation

Huang, J., Gu, S., Chen, M., Zhang, S., Jiang, Z., Chen, X., Jiang, C., Liu, G., Radu, R. A., Sun, X., Vollrath, D., Du, J., Yan, B., & Zhao, C. (2019). Abnormal mTORC1 signaling leads to retinal pigment epithelium degeneration. Theranostics, 9(4), 1170–1180.


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