Strong evidence suggests that dysregulated lipid metabolism involving dysfunction of the retinal pigmented epithelium (RPE) underlies the pathogenesis of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the elderly. A hallmark of AMD is the over-production of lipid and protein-rich extracellular deposits that accumulate in the extracellular matrix [Bruch’s membrane (BrM)] adjacent to the RPE. We analyzed Apolipoprotein A-1 (ApoA-1) containing lipoproteins isolated from BrM of elderly human donor eyes and found a unique proteome, distinct from HDL isolated from donor plasma of the same individuals. The most striking difference is higher concentrations of ApoB and ApoE, which bind to glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). We hypothesize that this interaction promotes lipoprotein deposition onto BrM GAGs, initiating downstream effects that contribute to RPE dysfunction/death. We tested this hypothesis using two potential therapeutic strategies to alter the lipoprotein/protein profile of these extracellular deposits. First, we used short heparan sulfate oligosaccharides to remove lipoproteins already deposited in both the extracellular matrix of RPE cells and in aged donor BrM tissue. Second, an ApoA-1 mimetic, 5A peptide, was demonstrated to modulate the composition and concentration of apolipoproteins secreted from primary porcine RPE cells. Significantly, in a mouse model of AMD this 5A peptide altered the proteomic profile of circulating HDL and ameliorated some of the potentially harmful changes to the protein composition resulting from the high fat, high cholesterol diet in this model. Together, these results suggest that targeting HDL interactions with BrM represents a new strategy to slow AMD progression in humans.
Published under license by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.