Indexed on: 13 May '18Published on: 13 May '18Published in: Cell Death & Disease
Calcium ions play a critical role in neuronal cell death. Pigment epithelium-derived factor (PEDF) is a promising neuroprotective protein for photoreceptor cells but the mechanisms mediating its effects against retinal degeneration are still not well characterized. We addressed this question in the rd1 degenerating mouse retina that bears a mutation in the Pde6b gene encoding one subunit of the phosphodiesterase enzyme. Loss of phosphodiesterase activity in rod photoreceptor cells increases cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) levels leading to a rise in intracellular calcium. Short-term treatments with recombinant human PEDF protein decreased intracellular calcium in photoreceptors in vivo. Taking advantage of calcium pump blockers, we defined that PEDF signaling acts on PMCA calcium pumps to lower intracellular calcium. PEDF restrained cell death pathways activated by high calcium levels and engaging calpains, BAX and AIF. The neurotrophic effects were mediated by the PEDF receptor (PEDF-R), encoded by the PNPLA2 gene. Finally, peptides containing the neurotrophic domain of PEDF targeted these same cell death pathways in vivo. The findings reveal rescue from death of degenerating photoreceptor cells by a PEDF-mediated preservation of intracellular calcium homeostasis.