October 26, 2020

Optogenetic delivery of trophic signals in a genetic model of Parkinson’s disease

Optogenetics has been harnessed to shed new mechanistic light on current therapies and to develop future treatment strategies. This has been to date achieved by the correction of electrical signals in neuronal cells and neural circuits that are affected by disease. In contrast, the optogenetic delivery of trophic biochemical signals, which support cell survival and thereby may modify progression of degenerative disorders, has never been demonstrated in an animal disease model. Here, we reengineered the human and Drosophila melanogaster REarranged during Transfection (hRET and dRET) receptors to be activated by light, creating one-component optogenetic tools termed Opto-hRET and Opto-dRET. Upon blue light stimulation, these receptors robustly induced the MAPK/ERK proliferative signaling pathway in cultured cells. In PINK1B9 flies that exhibit loss of PTEN-induced putative kinase 1 (PINK1), a kinase associated with familial Parkinson’s disease (PD), light activation of Opto-dRET suppressed mitochondrial defects, tissue degeneration and behavioral deficits. In human cells with PINK1 loss-of-function, mitochondrial fragmentation was rescued using Opto-dRET via the PI3K/NF{kappa}B pathway. Our results demonstrate that a light-activated receptor can ameliorate disease hallmarks in a genetic model of PD. The optogenetic delivery of trophic signals is cell type-specific and reversible and thus has the potential to overcome limitations of current strategies towards a spatio-temporal regulation of tissue repair.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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