Molecular vision

Vesicular glutamate transporter 3 in age-dependent optic neuropathy.

PMID 21311743


To determine retinal vesicular glutamate transporter 3 (VGLUT3) expression alterations in a mouse model of progressive optic neuropathy (glaucoma). Tissue specimens were obtained from age-matched DBA/2J and control C57BL/6J mice for western blot analysis. Enucleated globes from DBA/2J, C57BL/6J, and BALB/cJ mice were fixed in formalin, paraffin-embedded, and sectioned for VGLUT3 protein localization. western blot analysis of the control retinas revealed the expression of a ~55xa0kDa immunoreactive VGLUT3 protein that is to be expected in tissues such as retina, brain, liver, heart, and kidney tissue, but not in intestinal or lung tissue. Furthermore, a strong ~130xa0kDa immunoreactive VGLUT3 isoform that is restricted to the central nervous system (the brain and retinas) was also identified in the controls, but was not detected in the DBA/2J retinas. Immunofluorescence microscopy showed a lack of VGLUT3 expression in the synapses between amacrine and retinal ganglion cells in DBA/2J retinas, in contrast to its strong expression in the C57BL/6J and BALB/cJ controls. Our results implicate the dysregulated expression of a central nervous system-specific VGLUT3 isoform as a predisposing factor in the development of optic neuropathy in DBA/2J mice, a spontaneous mouse model of glaucoma. In striking parallel to the visual system defects of glaucomatous DBA/2J mice, the inner ear of VGLUT3 knockout mice displays a progressive loss of inner hair cell to spiral-ganglion neuron synapses. A significant reduction in the number of spiral-ganglion neurons leads to age-associated deafness. Thus, we propose that the absence of this biochemically uncharacterized 130xa0kDa VGLUT3 isoform in the DBA/2J retina is a predisposing factor in synaptic instability, and a contributing factor in the age-dependent and progressive loss of ganglion cells projecting to the brain.