Runxia Wen obtained her B.Sc. (Hons) in biology from Sichuan University in 2012. She conducted ophthalmology research at the University of British Columbia and received her Ph.D. degree in cell and developmental biology in 2018. Her Ph.D. thesis focused on the role of autophagy, a lysosomal degradation pathway, in retinal degeneration. She joined the Goldberg Lab at Stanford University in 2019. As a postdoc scholar in the Department of Ophthalmology, she is currently studying the molecular mechanisms underlying optic nerve regeneration.
Honors & Awards
Graduate Student Travel Award, University of British Columbia (2017)
College for Interdisciplinary Studies Graduate Award, University of British Columbia (2012)
Marguerite Adamson Award, Marguerite Adamson Estate (2012)
Ph.D., University of British Columbia, Cell and Developmental Biology (2018)
B.Sc. (Hons), Sichuan University, Biology (2012)
Jeffrey Goldberg, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
Autophagy in Xenopus laevis rod photoreceptors is independently regulated by phototransduction and misfolded RHOP23H
2019; 15 (11): 1970–89
We previously reported autophagic structures in rod photoreceptors expressing a misfolding RHO (rhodopsin) mutant (RHOP23H), suggesting that autophagy may play a role in degrading the mutant RHO and/or be involved in photoreceptor cell death. To further examine autophagy in normal and diseased rods, we generated transgenic Xenopus laevis tadpoles expressing the dually fluorescent autophagy marker mRFP-eGFP-LC3 in rods, which changes from green to yellow and finally red as autophagic structures develop and mature. Using transgenic lines with constitutive and inducible expression, we determined the time-course of autophagy in rod photoreceptors: autophagosomes last for 6 to 8 hours before fusing with lysosomes, and acidified autolysosomes last for about 28 hours before being degraded. Autophagy was diurnally regulated in normal rods, with more autophagic structures generated during periods of light, and this regulation was non-circadian. We also found that more autophagosomes were produced in rods expressing the misfolding RHOP23H mutant. The RHO chromophore absorbs photons to initiate phototransduction, and is consumed in this process; it also promotes RHO folding. To determine whether increased autophagy in light-exposed normal rods is caused by increased RHO misfolding or phototransduction, we used CRISPR/Cas9 to knock out the RPE65 and GNAT1 genes, which are essential for chromophore biosynthesis and phototransduction respectively. Both knockouts suppressed light-induced autophagy, indicating that although light and misfolded rhodopsin can both induce autophagy in rods, light-induced autophagy is not due to misfolding of RHO, but rather due to phototransduction. Abbreviations: CYCS: cytochrome c; bRHOP23H: bovine RHOP23H; Cas9: CRISPR associated protein 9; dpf: days post-fertilization; eGFP: enhanced green fluorescent protein; GNAT1: guanine nucleotide-binding protein G(t) subunit alpha-1 aka rod alpha-transducin; HSPA1A/hsp70: heat shock protein of 70 kilodaltons; LAMP1: lysosomal-associated membrane protein 1; LC3: microtubule-associated protein 1A/1B light chain 3; mRFP: monomeric red fluorescent protein; RHO: rhodopsin; RP: retinitis pigmentosa; RPE65: retinal pigment epithelium-specific 65 kDa protein: sfGFP: superfolding GFP; sgRNA: single guide RNA; WGA: wheat germ agglutinin; RHOp: the Xenopus laevis RHO.2.L promoter.
View details for DOI 10.1080/15548627.2019.1596487
View details for Web of Science ID 000466646300001
View details for PubMedID 30975014
Opposing Effects of Valproic Acid Treatment Mediated by Histone Deacetylase Inhibitor Activity in Four Transgenic X-laevis Models of Retinitis Pigmentosa
JOURNAL OF NEUROSCIENCE
2017; 37 (4): 1039–54
Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is an inherited retinal degeneration (RD) that leads to blindness for which no treatment is available. RP is frequently caused by mutations in Rhodopsin; in some animal models, RD is exacerbated by light. Valproic acid (VPA) is a proposed treatment for RP and other neurodegenerative disorders, with a phase II trial for RP under way. However, the therapeutic mechanism is unclear, with minimal research supporting its use in RP. We investigated the effects of VPA on Xenopus laevis models of RP expressing human P23H, T17M, T4K, and Q344ter rhodopsins, which are associated with RP in humans. VPA ameliorated RD associated with P23H rhodopsin and promoted clearing of mutant rhodopsin from photoreceptors. The effect was equal to that of dark rearing, with no additive effect observed. Rescue of visual function was confirmed by electroretinography. In contrast, VPA exacerbated RD caused by T17M rhodopsin in light, but had no effect in darkness. Effects in T4K and Q344ter rhodopsin models were also negative. These effects of VPA were paralleled by treatment with three additional histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors, but not other antipsychotics, chemical chaperones, or VPA structural analogues. In WT retinas, VPA treatment increased histone H3 acetylation. In addition, electron microscopy showed increased autophagosomes in rod inner segments with HDAC inhibitor (HDACi) treatment, potentially linking the therapeutic effects in P23H rhodopsin animals and negative effects in other models with autophagy. Our results suggest that the success or failure of VPA treatment is dependent on genotype and that HDACi treatment is contraindicated for some RP cases.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is an inherited, degenerative retinal disease that leads to blindness for which no therapy is available. We determined that valproic acid (VPA), currently undergoing a phase II trial for RP, has both beneficial and detrimental effects in animal models of RP depending on the underlying disease mechanism and that both effects are due to histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibition possibly linked to autophagy regulation. Off-label use of VPA and other HDAC inhibitors for the treatment of RP should be limited to the research setting until this effect is understood and can be predicted. Our study suggests that, unless genotype is accounted for, clinical trials for RP treatments may give negative results due to multiple disease mechanisms with differential responses to therapeutic interventions.
View details for DOI 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1647-16.2017
View details for Web of Science ID 000393569300024
View details for PubMedID 28490005
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6597025
Light Induces Ultrastructural Changes in Rod Outer and Inner Segments, Including Autophagy, in a Transgenic Xenopus laevis P23H Rhodopsin Model of Retinitis Pigmentosa
INVESTIGATIVE OPHTHALMOLOGY & VISUAL SCIENCE
2015; 56 (13): 7947–55
We previously reported a transgenic Xenopus laevis model of retinitis pigmentosa in which tadpoles express the bovine form of P23H rhodopsin (bP23H) in rod photoreceptors. In this model, retinal degeneration was dependent on light exposure. Here, we investigated ultrastructural changes that occurred in the rod photoreceptors of these retinas when exposed to light.Tadpoles expressing bP23H in rods were transferred from constant darkness to a 12-hour light:12-hour dark (12L:12D) regimen. For comparison, transgenic tadpoles expressing an inducible form of caspase 9 (iCasp9) were reared in a 12L:12D regimen, and retinal degeneration was induced by administration of the drug AP20187. Tadpoles were euthanized at various time points, and eyes were processed for confocal light and transmission electron microscopy.We observed defects in outer and inner segments of rods expressing bP23H that were aggravated by light exposure. Rod outer segments exhibited vesiculations throughout and were rapidly phagocytosed by the retinal pigment epithelium. In rod inner segments, we observed autophagic compartments adjacent to the endoplasmic reticulum and extensive vesiculation at later time points. These defects were not found in rods expressing iCasp9, which completely degenerated within 36 hours after drug administration.Our results indicate that ultrastructural defects in outer and inner segment membranes of bP23H expressing rods differ from those observed in drug-induced apoptosis. We suggest that light-induced retinal degeneration caused by P23H rhodopsin occurs via cell death with autophagy, which may represent an attempt to eliminate the mutant rhodopsin and/or damaged cellular compartments from the secretory pathway.
View details for DOI 10.1167/iovs.15-16799
View details for Web of Science ID 000368243800041
View details for PubMedID 26720441
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4684193