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Retinal transcriptome profiling identifies novel candidate genes associated with visual impairment in a mouse model of multiple sclerosis

Hong, S;Weerasinghe-Mudiyanselage, PDE;Kang, S;Moon, C;Shin, T;

Visual impairment is occasionally observed in multiple sclerosis (MS) and its animal model, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). Although uveitis and optic neuritis have been reported in MS and EAE, the precise mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis of these visual impairments remain poorly understood. This study aims to identify differentially expressed genes (DEGs) in the retinas of mice with EAE to identify genes that may be implicated in EAE-induced visual impairment. Fourteen adult mice were injected with myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein35–55 to induce the EAE model. Transcriptomes of retinas with EAE were analyzed by RNA-sequencing. Gene expression analysis revealed 347 DEGs in the retinas of mice with EAE: 345 were upregulated, and 2 were downregulated (adjusted p-value < 0.05 and absolute log2 fold change > 1). Gene ontology (GO) analysis showed that the upregulated genes in the retinas of mice with EAE were primarily related to immune responses, responses to external biotic stimuli, defense responses, and leukocyte-mediated immunity in the GO biological process. The expression of six upregulated hub genes (c1qb, ctss, itgam, itgb2, syk, and tyrobp) from the STRING analysis and the two significantly downregulated DEGs (hapln1 and ndst4) were validated by reverse transcription-quantitative polymerase chain reaction. In addition, gene set enrichment analysis showed that the negatively enriched gene sets in EAE-affected retinas were associated with the neuronal system and phototransduction cascade. This study provides novel molecular evidence for visual impairments in EAE and indicates directions for further research to elucidate the mechanisms of these visual impairments in MS.