Strong upregulation of inflammatory genes accompanies photoreceptor demise in canine models of retinal degeneration

<div><p>We have analyzed the complex pattern of the inflammatory response in early-onset canine models of human retinitis pigmentosa, rcd1, xlpra2 and erd, as well as late-onset xlpra1, in comparative manner. The time course of immune response genes and proteins expression was examined along the timeline of photoreceptors degeneration. Gene expression analysis of the early-onset models prior to and after the peak of photoreceptors death identified the involvement of multiple immune response genes including those encoding constituents of the NLRP3 inflammasome, its substrates, pro-IL1B, pro-IL18, and common components of IL1B, IL18 and TLR4 pathways. Out of two activated caspase-1 cleavage products, IL1B and IL18, only IL1B was detected in rcd1 and xlpra2 while precursor IL18 remained unprocessed in the same protein extract highlighting prominence of IL1B pathway. An overall immune response was most prominent in rcd1 followed by xlpra2 and least prominent in erd. Noticeably, in rcd1 and xlpra2, but not in erd, early induction of the immune response was accompanied by sustained intraretinal migration and activation of retinal microglia. Lastly, delayed activation of the anti-inflammatory factors in all early-onset models was insufficient to counterbalance rapidly progressing inflammation. In contrast to early-onset models, in late-onset xlpra1 retinas a subset of the pro-inflammatory genes was highly upregulated long before any disease-related structural changes occurred, but was counterbalanced by an adequate anti-inflammatory response. Results point out to upregulated immune response accompanying disease progression in animal models of retinal degeneration, and to potential benefits of early anti-inflammatory therapy.</p></div>