The adult mammal lacks the ability to regenerate neurons lost to retinal damage or disease in a meaningful capacity. However, previous studies from this laboratory have demonstrated that PNU-282987, an α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor agonist, elicits a robust neurogenic response in the adult murine retina. With eye drop application of PNU-282987, Müller glia cells re-enter the cell cycle and produce progenitor-like cells that can differentiate into various types of retinal neurons. In this study, we analyzed the regenerative capability of PNU-282987 in two retinal disease models and identified the source of newly regenerated neurons. Wild-type mice and mice with a transgenic Müller-glia lineage tracer were manipulated to mimic loss of retinal cells associated with glaucoma or photoreceptor degeneration. Following treatment with PNU-282987, the regenerative response of retinal neurons was quantified and characterized. After onset of photoreceptor degeneration, PNU-282987 was able to successfully regenerate both rod and cone photoreceptors. Quantification of this response demonstrated significant regeneration, restoring photoreceptors to near wild-type density. In mice that had glaucoma-like conditions induced, PNU-282987 treatment led to a significant increase in retinal ganglion cells. Retrograde labeling of optic nerve axon fibers demonstrated that newly regenerated axons projected into the optic nerve. Lineage tracing analysis demonstrated that these new neurons were derived from Müller glia. These results demonstrate that PNU-282987 can induce retinal regeneration in adult mice following onset of retinal damage. The ability of PNU-282987 to regenerate retinal neurons in a robust manner offers a new direction for developing novel and potentially transformative treatments to combat neurodegenerative disease.
Copyright © 2021. Published by Elsevier Ltd.