Systemic immunotherapy delays photoreceptor cell loss and prevents vascular pathology in Royal College of Surgeons rats

Grazyna Adamus, Shaomei Wang, Madison Kyger, Aneta Worley, Bin Lu, Gregory G. Burrows

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Purpose: Degenerative retinopathies, including retinitis pigmentosa, age-related retinal degeneration, autoimmune retinopathy, and related diseases affect millions of people around the world. Currently, there is no effective treatment for most of those diseases. We investigated systemic recombinant T-cell receptor ligand (RTL) immunotherapy for preventing retinal degeneration and vascular damage in the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) rat model of retinal degeneration. Methods: RCS rats were treated with RTL220 tethered to interphotoreceptor retinoid binding protein (IRBP) peptide or control RTL101 without peptide by subcutaneous administration starting at the onset of photoreceptor degeneration or after the degenerative process began daily or every other day and performed for a 13-week period. The retinal cross sections and whole mounts were prepared to determine histopathology, leaking vessels, and formation of vascular complexes. Immunofluorescent studies evaluated microglia and monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 chemokine in treated retinas. Optokinetic studies were performed to determine visual acuity. Results: Systemic treatment with RTL220 prevented decreases in outer nuclear layer (ONL) thickness and showed a significantly higher number of nuclei than control rats treated with RTL101 or vehicle. RTL220 was also effective in protecting retinal vasculature from leakage and the formation of abnormal vascular complexes even when the treatment was administered after the degenerative process was initiated. Visual acuity measurement showed that rats treated with RTL220 performed significantly better than those with RTL101 and untreated age-matched controls at P60 and P90. Biodistribution studies showed that RTL220 cleared slowly from the administration site. Moreover, RTL220- treated retinas had a significantly reduced number of activated microglia in the subretinal space, decreased monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 production in the retina, inhibited T-cell responses, and reduced anti-interphotoreceptor retinoid binding protein autoantibody titers. Treatment with the control RTL101 (without a specific peptide tethered) or vehicle alone did not inhibit microglia activation or protect photoreceptors or vasculature. Conclusions: RTL therapy augmented photoreceptor cell survival, protected vasculature, and increased visual function in the RTL rat. Targeting chronic autoimmunity with RTLs can be an effective therapeutic alternative in delaying retinal degeneration. Subcutaneous delivery of RTLs alone or combined with other drugs could be an attractive option for long-term therapy for retinal degenerative diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2323-2337
Number of pages15
JournalMolecular vision
StatePublished - Sep 6 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology


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