Apolipoprotein E allele-dependent pathogenesis: a model for age-related retinal degeneration.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a late-onset, multifactorial, neurodegenerative disease of the retina and the leading cause of irreversible vision loss in the elderly in the Western world. We describe here a murine model that combines three known AMD risk factors: advanced age, high fat cholesterol-rich (HF-C) diet, and apolipoprotein E (apoE) genotype. Eyes of aged, targeted replacement mice expressing human apoE2, apoE3, or apoE4 and maintained on a HF-C diet show apoE isoform-dependent pathologies of differential severity. ApoE4 mice are the most severely affected. They develop a constellation of changes that mimic the pathology associated with human AMD. These alterations include diffuse sub-retinal pigment epithelial deposits, drusenoid deposits, thickened Bruch's membrane, and atrophy, hypopigmentation, and hyperpigmentation of the retinal pigment epithelium. In extreme cases, apoE4 mice also develop marked choroidal neovascularization, a hallmark of exudative AMD. Neither age nor HF-C diet alone is sufficient to elicit these changes. We document choroidal neovascularization and other AMD-like ocular pathologies in an animal model that exploits known AMD risk factors. The model is additionally attractive because it is not complicated by invasive experimental intervention. Our findings in this model implicate the human apoE E4 allele as a susceptibility gene for AMD and support the hypothesis that common pathogenic mechanisms may underlie AMD and Alzheimer's disease.
Malek, G; Johnson, LV; Mace, BE; Saloupis, P; Schmechel, DE; Rickman, DW; Toth, CA; Sullivan, PM; Bowes Rickman, C
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