Preconditioning-induced protection of photoreceptors requires activation of the signal-transducing receptor gp130 in photoreceptors.


Retinal degenerations are a class of neurodegenerative disorders that ultimately lead to blindness due to the death of retinal photoreceptors. In most cases, death is the result of long-term exposure to environmental, inflammatory, and genetic insults. In age-related macular degeneration, significant vision loss may take up to 70-80 years to develop. The protracted time to develop blindness suggests that retinal neurons have an endogenous mechanism for protection from chronic injury. Previous studies have shown that endogenous protective mechanisms can be induced by preconditioning animals with sublethal bright cyclic light. Such preconditioning can protect photoreceptors from a subsequent damaging insult and is thought to be accomplished through induced expression of protective factors. Some of the factors shown to be associated with protection bind and activate the signal transducing receptor gp130. To determine whether stress-induced endogenous protection of photoreceptors requires gp130, we generated conditional gp130 knockout (KO) mice with the Cre/lox system and used light-preconditioning to induce neuroprotection in these mice. Functional and morphological analyses demonstrated that the retina-specific gp130 KO impaired preconditioning-induced endogenous protection. Photoreceptor-specific gp130 KO mice had reduced protection, although the Muller cell KO mice did not, thus gp130-induced protection was restricted to photoreceptors. Using an animal model of retinitis pigmentosa, we found that the photoreceptor-specific gp130 KO increased sensitivity to genetically induced photoreceptor cell death, demonstrating that gp130 activation in photoreceptors had a general protective role independent of whether stress was caused by light or genetic mutations.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A