Stanniocalcin-1 Rescued Photoreceptor Degeneration in Two Rat Models of Inherited Retinal Degeneration

Authors

Gavin W Roddy, Robert H Rosa Jr, Joo Youn Oh, Joni H Ylostalo, Thomas J Bartosh, Hosoon Choi, Ryang Hwa Lee, Douglas Yasumura, Kelly Ahern, Gregory Nielsen, Michael T Matthes, Matthew M LaVail and Darwin J Prockop

Abstract

Oxidative stress and photoreceptor apoptosis are prominent features of many forms of retinal degeneration (RD) for which there are currently no effective therapies. We previously observed that mesenchymal stem/stromal cells reduce apoptosis by being activated to secrete stanniocalcin-1 (STC-1), a multifunctional protein that reduces oxidative stress by upregulating mitochondrial uncoupling protein-2 (UCP-2). Therefore, we tested the hypothesis that intravitreal injection of STC-1 can rescue photoreceptors. We first tested STC-1 in the rhodopsin transgenic rat characterized by rapid photoreceptor loss. Intravitreal STC-1 decreased the loss of photoreceptor nuclei and transcripts and resulted in measurable retinal function when none is otherwise present in this rapid degeneration. We then tested STC-1 in the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) rat characterized by a slower photoreceptor degeneration. Intravitreal STC-1 reduced the number of pyknotic nuclei in photoreceptors, delayed the loss of photoreceptor transcripts, and improved function of rod photoreceptors. Additionally, STC-1 upregulated UCP-2 and decreased levels of two protein adducts generated by reactive oxygen species (ROS). Microarrays from the two models demonstrated that STC-1 upregulated expression of a similar profile of genes for retinal development and function. The results suggested that intravitreal STC-1 is a promising therapy for various forms of RD including retinitis pigmentosa and atrophic age-related macular degeneration (AMD).