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Abstract #95417 Published in IGR 22-2

Impaired cholesterol efflux in retinal pigment epithelium of individuals with juvenile macular degeneration

Tsai YT; Li Y; Ryu J; Su PY; Su PY; Cheng CH; Wu WH; Li YS; Quinn PMJ; Quinn PMJ; Quinn PMJ; Leong KW; Tsang SH
American Journal of Human Genetics 2021; 108: 903-918


Macular degeneration (MD) is characterized by the progressive deterioration of the macula and represents one of the most prevalent causes of blindness worldwide. Abnormal intracellular accumulation of lipid droplets and pericellular deposits of lipid-rich material in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) called drusen are clinical hallmarks of different forms of MD including Doyne honeycomb retinal dystrophy (DHRD) and age-related MD (AMD). However, the appropriate molecular therapeutic target underlying these disorder phenotypes remains elusive. Here, we address this knowledge gap by comparing the proteomic profiles of induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived RPEs (iRPE) from individuals with DHRD and their isogenic controls. Our analysis and follow-up studies elucidated the mechanism of lipid accumulation in DHRD iRPE cells. Specifically, we detected significant downregulation of carboxylesterase 1 (CES1), an enzyme that converts cholesteryl ester to free cholesterol, an indispensable process in cholesterol export. CES1 knockdown or overexpression of EFEMP1, a variant of EGF-containing fibulin extracellular matrix protein 1 that is associated with DHRD and attenuated cholesterol efflux and led to lipid droplet accumulation. In iRPE cells, we also found that EFEMP1 has a hyper-inhibitory effect on epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) signaling when compared to EFEMP1 and may suppress CES1 expression via the downregulation of transcription factor SP1. Taken together, these results highlight the homeostatic role of cholesterol efflux in iRPE cells and identify CES1 as a mediator of cholesterol efflux in MD.

Department of Biomedical Engineering, Columbia University, New York, NY 10032, USA.

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