Lipid metabolism-related gene mutations can cause retinitis pigmentosa, a currently untreatable blinding disease resulting from progressive neurodegeneration of the retina. Here, we demonstrated the influence of adiponectin receptor 1 (ADIPOR1) deficiency in retinal neurodegeneration using Adipor1 knockout (KO) mice. Adipor1 mRNA was observed to be expressed in photoreceptors, predominately within the photoreceptor inner segment (PIS), and increased after birth during the development of the photoreceptor outer segments (POSs) where photons are received by the visual pigment, rhodopsin. At 3 weeks of age, visual function impairment, specifically photoreceptor dysfunction, as recorded by electroretinography (ERG), was evident in homozygous, but not heterozygous, Adipor1 KO mice. However, although photoreceptor loss was evident at 3 weeks of age and progressed until 10 weeks, the level of visual dysfunction was already substantial by 3 weeks, after which it was retained until 10 weeks of age. The rhodopsin mRNA levels had already decreased at 3 weeks, suggesting that reduced rhodopsin may have contributed to early visual loss. Moreover, inflammation and oxidative stress were induced in homozygous KO retinas. Prior to observation of photoreceptor loss via optical microscopy, electron microscopy revealed that POSs were present; however, they were misaligned and their lipid composition, including docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is critical in forming POSs, was impaired in the retina. Importantly, the expression of Elovl2, an elongase of very long chain fatty acids expressed in the PIS, was significantly reduced, and lipogenic genes, which are induced under conditions of reduced endogenous DHA synthesis, were increased in homozygous KO mice. The causal relationship between ADIPOR1 deficiency and Elovl2 repression, together with upregulation of lipogenic genes, was confirmed in vitro. Therefore, ADIPOR1 in the retina appears to be indispensable for ELOVL2 induction, which is likely required to supply sufficient DHA for appropriate photoreceptor function and survival.
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