Academic Appointments

Honors & Awards

  • Douglas Johnson Award for Glaucoma Research, BrightFocus Foundation (2013)
  • The Knights Templar Eye Foundation Travel Fellowship Award, The Knights Templar Eye Foundation/ISER (2016)
  • William & Mary Greve Special Scholar Award, Research to Prevent Blindness (2018)
  • Catalyst for a Cure Research Consortium-3, Glaucoma Research Foundation (2019)
  • Stein Innovation Award, Research to Prevent Blindness (2023)

Professional Education

  • Postdoc, Harvard Medical School, Neuroscience (2009)
  • Ph.D, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, Neuroscience (2006)
  • Residency, Beijing Friendship Hospital, Ophthalmology (1998)
  • MD, Beijing Medical University, Medicine (1996)

Current Research and Scholarly Interests

Regenerative and neuroprotective therapies have long been sought for CNS neurodegenerative diseases but none have been found. That there is no curative neuroprotective or restorative therapy for neurodegeneration is a central challenge for human health. My lab focuses on the mechanisms responsible for neuronal degeneration and axon regeneration after injury or diseases with the goal of building on this understanding to develop effective combined strategies to promote neuroprotection and functional recovery: 1) Through established collaborations with experts in immunology, physiology and cancer, we were the first to demonstrate that axon-injury induced neuronal ER stress is a common mechanism for both RGC soma and axon neurodegeneration. We are currently developing ER stress modulators and AAV-mediated gene therapy strategies for neuroprotection. 2) We are pioneering in the application of AAV-mediated therapies for safer and more effective treatment of glaucoma and related optic neuropathies. We have identified an RGC-specific promoter for CRISPR/Cas9-based gene therapy in RGCs. We are screening mutated AAV capsid libraries to identify AAVs that can specifically infect RGCs but not other retinal cells and make RGC targeting more precise, including in human tissues. 3) We have recently developed novel inducible mouse and NHP glaucoma models that faithfully replicates a secondary post-operative glaucoma following vitreoretinal surgeries; and a genetic mouse glaucoma model to mimic normal tension glaucoma. 4) Through collaboration with experts in adaptive optics, machine deep learning and genetics, we are developing reliable morphological and functional in vivo readouts of RGCs and illustrating genetic causes of RGC degeneration. 5) Previously, we performed molecular dissection of the PTEN/mTOR pathway in mouse RGCs in vivo and illuminated the mechanisms by which AKT interacts with mTORC1 and mTORC2 and their downstream effectors S6K1, 4E-BP and GSK3β to regulate optic nerve regeneration. We currently use a newly developed tracing method to purify regenerating RGCs and survival but non-regeneration RGCs, by which we identified true axon regeneration-associated genes. In summary, our work emphasizes understanding fundamental molecular mechanisms while maintaining a consistent focus on clinically relevant scenarios and therapies that will allow us to translate lab discoveries into effective vision restoration treatments.

Stanford Advisees

Graduate and Fellowship Programs

All Publications

  • Optineurin-facilitated axonal mitochondria delivery promotes neuroprotection and axon regeneration. bioRxiv : the preprint server for biology Liu, D., Webber, H. C., Bian, F., Xu, Y., Prakash, M., Feng, X., Yang, M., Yang, H., You, I., Li, L., Liu, L., Liu, P., Huang, H., Chang, C., Liu, L., Shah, S. H., Torre, A. L., Welsbie, D. S., Sun, Y., Duan, X., Goldberg, J. L., Braun, M., Lansky, Z., Hu, Y. 2024


    Optineurin (OPTN) mutations are linked to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and normal tension glaucoma (NTG), but a relevant animal model is lacking, and the molecular mechanisms underlying neurodegeneration are unknown. We found that OPTN C-terminus truncation (OPTN∆C) causes late-onset neurodegeneration of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), optic nerve (ON), and spinal cord motor neurons, preceded by a striking decrease of axonal mitochondria. Surprisingly, we discover that OPTN directly interacts with both microtubules and the mitochondrial transport complex TRAK1/KIF5B, stabilizing them for proper anterograde axonal mitochondrial transport, in a C-terminus dependent manner. Encouragingly, overexpressing OPTN/TRAK1/KIF5B reverses not only OPTN truncation-induced, but also ocular hypertension-induced neurodegeneration, and promotes striking ON regeneration. Therefore, in addition to generating new animal models for NTG and ALS, our results establish OPTN as a novel facilitator of the microtubule-dependent mitochondrial transport necessary for adequate axonal mitochondria delivery, and its loss as the likely molecular mechanism of neurodegeneration.

    View details for DOI 10.1101/2024.04.02.587832

    View details for PubMedID 38617277

  • RGC-specific ATF4 and/or CHOP deletion rescues glaucomatous neurodegeneration and visual function. Molecular therapy. Nucleic acids Fang, F., Liu, P., Huang, H., Feng, X., Li, L., Sun, Y., Kaufman, R. J., Hu, Y. 2023; 33: 286-295


    Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress has been linked with various acute and chronic neurodegenerative diseases. We previously found that optic nerve (ON) injury and diseases induce neuronal ER stress in retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). We further demonstrated that germline deletion of CHOP preserves the structure and function of both RGC somata and axons in mouse glaucoma models. Here we report that RGC-specific deletion of CHOP and/or its upstream regulator ATF4 synergistically promotes RGC and ON survival and preserves visual function in mouse ON crush and silicone oil-induced ocular hypertension (SOHU) glaucoma models. Consistently, topical application of the ATF4/CHOP chemical inhibitor ISRIB or RGC-specific CRISPR-mediated knockdown of the ATF4 downstream effector Gadd45a also delivers significant neuroprotection in the SOHU glaucoma model. These studies suggest that blocking the neuronal intrinsic ATF4/CHOP axis of ER stress is a promising neuroprotection strategy for neurodegeneration.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.omtn.2023.07.015

    View details for PubMedID 37547290

  • Osteopontin drives retinal ganglion cell resiliency in glaucomatous optic neuropathy. Cell reports Zhao, M., Toma, K., Kinde, B., Li, L., Patel, A. K., Wu, K. Y., Lum, M. R., Tan, C., Hooper, J. E., Kriegstein, A. R., La Torre, A., Liao, Y. J., Welsbie, D. S., Hu, Y., Han, Y., Duan, X. 2023; 42 (9): 113038


    Chronic neurodegeneration and acute injuries lead to neuron losses via diverse processes. We compared retinal ganglion cell (RGC) responses between chronic glaucomatous conditions and the acute injury model. Among major RGC subclasses, αRGCs and intrinsically photosensitive RGCs (ipRGCs) preferentially survive glaucomatous conditions, similar to findings in the retina subject to axotomy. Focusing on an αRGC intrinsic factor, Osteopontin (secreted phosphoprotein 1 [Spp1]), we found an ectopic neuronal expression of Osteopontin (Spp1) in other RGCs subject to glaucomatous conditions. This contrasted with the Spp1 downregulation subject to axotomy. αRGC-specific Spp1 elimination led to significant αRGC loss, diminishing their resiliency. Spp1 overexpression led to robust neuroprotection of susceptible RGC subclasses under glaucomatous conditions. In contrast, Spp1 overexpression did not significantly protect RGCs subject to axotomy. Additionally, SPP1 marked adult human RGC subsets with large somata and SPP1 expression in the aqueous humor correlated with glaucoma severity. Our study reveals Spp1's role in mediating neuronal resiliency in glaucoma.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.celrep.2023.113038

    View details for PubMedID 37624696

  • Silicone Oil-Induced Ocular Hypertension Glaucoma Model (SOHU) in Rodent and Nonhuman Primate. Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.) Fang, F., Zhang, J., Hu, Y. 2023; 2708: 57-69


    In this chapter, we describe a clinically relevant inducible and reversible ocular hypertension glaucoma model, which mimics the secondary glaucoma that can be a postoperative complication when silicone oil (SO) is used as a tamponade agent in human vitreoretinal surgery. First, we detail the procedures for generating SO-induced ocular hypertension (SOHU) in mouse and describe the two variations of this model that simulate common but distinct glaucoma types. We also describe separately the related procedures for measuring IOP and removing SO to return IOP to normal. Lastly, we describe the extension of the SOHU model in nonhuman primate (NHP), which recapitulates the severe neurodegeneration of acute human glaucoma but with unique dynamic changes of IOP due to the tolerance of the NHP ciliary body. The SOHU glaucoma model is, therefore, suitable for assessing experimental therapies for neuroprotection and regeneration, with or without treatment to lower IOP (SO removal), and consequently for translating relevant findings into novel and effective clinical treatments for glaucoma and other neurodegenerations. This model is straightforward, does not require special equipment or repetitive procedures, closely simulates clinical situations, and may be applicable to diverse animal species although minor modifications may be required.

    View details for DOI 10.1007/978-1-0716-3409-7_7

    View details for PubMedID 37558960

    View details for PubMedCentralID 5584058

  • Differential effects of SARM1 inhibition in traumatic glaucoma and EAE optic neuropathies. Molecular therapy. Nucleic acids Liu, P., Chen, W., Jiang, H., Huang, H., Liu, L., Fang, F., Li, L., Feng, X., Liu, D., Dalal, R., Sun, Y., Jafar-Nejad, P., Ling, K., Rigo, F., Ye, J., Hu, Y. 2023; 32: 13-27


    Optic neuropathy is a group of optic nerve (ON) diseases withprogressive degeneration of ON and retinal ganglion cells(RGCs). The lack of neuroprotective treatments is a central challenge for this leading cause of irreversible blindness. SARM1 (sterile alpha and TIR motif-containing protein 1) has intrinsic nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) hydrolase activity that causes axon degeneration by degrading axonal NAD+ significantly after activation by axon injury. SARM1 deletion is neuroprotective in many, but not all, neurodegenerative disease models. Here, we compare two therapy strategies for SARM1 inhibition, antisense oligonucleotide (ASO) and CRISPR, with germline SARM1 deletion in the neuroprotection of three optic neuropathy mouse models. This study reveals that, similar to germline SARM1 knockout in every cell, local retinal SARM1 ASO delivery and adeno-associated virus (AAV)-mediated RGC-specific CRISPR knockdown of SARM1 provide comparable neuroprotection to both RGC somata and axons in the silicone oil-induced ocular hypertension (SOHU) glaucoma model but only protect RGC axons, not somata, after traumatic ON injury. Surprisingly, neither of these two therapy strategies of SARM1 inhibition nor SARM1 germline knockout (KO) benefits RGC or ON survival in the experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE)/optic neuritis model. Our studies therefore suggest that SARM1 inhibition by local ASO delivery or AAV-mediated CRISPR is a promising neuroprotective gene therapy strategy for traumatic and glaucomatous optic neuropathies but not for demyelinating optic neuritis.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.omtn.2023.02.029

    View details for PubMedID 36950280

  • Silicone Oil-Induced Glaucomatous Neurodegeneration in Rhesus Macaques. International journal of molecular sciences Moshiri, A., Fang, F., Zhuang, P., Huang, H., Feng, X., Li, L., Dalal, R., Hu, Y. 2022; 23 (24)


    Previously, we developed a simple procedure of intracameral injection of silicone oil (SO) into mouse eyes and established the mouse SOHU (SO-induced ocular hypertension under-detected) glaucoma model with reversible intraocular pressure (IOP) elevation and significant glaucomatous neurodegeneration. Because the anatomy of the non-human primate (NHP) visual system closely resembles that of humans, it is the most likely to predict human responses to diseases and therapies. Here we tried to replicate the mouse SOHU glaucoma model in rhesus macaque monkeys. All six animals that we tested showed significant retinal ganglion cell (RGC) death, optic nerve (ON) degeneration, and visual functional deficits at both 3 and 6 months. In contrast to the mouse SOHU model, however, IOP changed dynamically in these animals, probably due to individual differences in ciliary body tolerance capability. Further optimization of this model is needed to achieve consistent IOP elevation without permanent damage of the ciliary body. The current form of the NHP SOHU model recapitulates the severe degeneration of acute human glaucoma, and is therefore suitable for assessing experimental therapies for neuroprotection and regeneration, and therefore for translating relevant findings into novel and effective treatments for patients with glaucoma and other neurodegenerations.

    View details for DOI 10.3390/ijms232415896

    View details for PubMedID 36555536

  • Longitudinal in vivo Ca2+ imaging reveals dynamic activity changes of diseased retinal ganglion cells at the single-cell level. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Li, L., Feng, X., Fang, F., Miller, D. A., Zhang, S., Zhuang, P., Huang, H., Liu, P., Liu, J., Sredar, N., Liu, L., Sun, Y., Duan, X., Goldberg, J. L., Zhang, H. F., Hu, Y. 2022; 119 (48): e2206829119


    Retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) are heterogeneous projection neurons that convey distinct visual features from the retina to brain. Here, we present a high-throughput in vivo RGC activity assay in response to light stimulation using noninvasive Ca2+ imaging of thousands of RGCs simultaneously in living mice. Population and single-cell analyses of longitudinal RGC Ca2+ imaging reveal distinct functional responses of RGCs and unprecedented individual RGC activity conversions during traumatic and glaucomatous degeneration. This study establishes a foundation for future in vivo RGC function classifications and longitudinal activity evaluations using more advanced imaging techniques and visual stimuli under normal, disease, and neural repair conditions. These analyses can be performed at both the population and single-cell levels using temporal and spatial information, which will be invaluable for understanding RGC pathophysiology and identifying functional biomarkers for diverse optic neuropathies.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.2206829119

    View details for PubMedID 36409915

  • Maprotiline restores ER homeostasis and rescues neurodegeneration via Histamine Receptor H1 inhibition in retinal ganglion cells. Nature communications Chen, W., Liu, P., Liu, D., Huang, H., Feng, X., Fang, F., Li, L., Wu, J., Liu, L., Solow-Cordero, D. E., Hu, Y. 2022; 13 (1): 6796


    When the protein or calcium homeostasis of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is adversely altered, cells experience ER stress that leads to various diseases including neurodegeneration. Genetic deletion of an ER stress downstream effector, CHOP, significantly protects neuron somata and axons. Here we report that three tricyclic compounds identified through a small-scale high throughput screening using a CHOP promoter-driven luciferase cell-based assay, effectively inhibit ER stress by antagonizing their common target, histamine receptor H1 (HRH1). We further demonstrated that systemic administration of one of these compounds, maprotiline, or CRISPR-mediated retinal ganglion cell (RGC)-specific HRH1 inhibition, delivers considerable neuroprotection of both RGC somata and axons and preservation of visual function in two mouse optic neuropathy models. Finally, we determine that maprotiline restores ER homeostasis by inhibiting HRH1-mediated Ca2+ release from ER. In this work we establish maprotiline as a candidate neuroprotectant and HRH1 as a potential therapeutic target for glaucoma.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41467-022-34682-y

    View details for PubMedID 36357388

  • Clinically relevant small-molecule promotes nerve repair and visual function recovery. NPJ Regenerative medicine Au, N. P., Kumar, G., Asthana, P., Gao, F., Kawaguchi, R., Chang, R. C., So, K. F., Hu, Y., Geschwind, D. H., Coppola, G., Ma, C. H. 2022; 7 (1): 50


    Adult mammalian injured axons regenerate over short-distance in the peripheral nervous system (PNS) while the axons in the central nervous system (CNS) are unable to regrow after injury. Here, we demonstrated that Lycium barbarum polysaccharides (LBP), purified from Wolfberry, accelerated long-distance axon regeneration after severe peripheral nerve injury (PNI) and optic nerve crush (ONC). LBP not only promoted intrinsic growth capacity of injured neurons and function recovery after severe PNI, but also induced robust retinal ganglion cell (RGC) survival and axon regeneration after ONC. By using LBP gene expression profile signatures to query a Connectivity map database, we identified a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved small-molecule glycopyrrolate, which promoted PNS axon regeneration, RGC survival and sustained CNS axon regeneration, increased neural firing in the superior colliculus, and enhanced visual target re-innervations by regenerating RGC axons leading to a partial restoration of visual function after ONC. Our study provides insights into repurposing of FDA-approved small molecule for nerve repair and function recovery.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41536-022-00233-8

    View details for PubMedID 36182946

  • Single-cell transcriptome analysis of regenerating RGCs reveals potent glaucoma neural repair genes. Neuron Li, L., Fang, F., Feng, X., Zhuang, P., Huang, H., Liu, P., Liu, L., Xu, A. Z., Qi, L. S., Cong, L., Hu, Y. 2022


    Axon regeneration holds great promise for neural repair of CNS axonopathies, including glaucoma. Pten deletion in retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) promotes potent optic nerve regeneration, but only a small population of Pten-null RGCs are actually regenerating RGCs (regRGCs); most surviving RGCs (surRGCs) remain non-regenerative. Here, we developed a strategy to specifically label and purify regRGCs and surRGCs, respectively, from the same Pten-deletion mice after optic nerve crush, in which they differ only in their regeneration capability. Smart-Seq2 single-cell transcriptome analysis revealed novel regeneration-associated genes that significantly promote axon regeneration. The most potent of these, Anxa2, acts synergistically with its ligand tPA in Pten-deletion-induced axon regeneration. Anxa2, its downstream effector ILK, and Mpp1 dramatically protect RGC somata and axons and preserve visual function in a clinically relevant model of glaucoma, demonstrating the exciting potential of this innovative strategy to identify novel effective neural repair candidates.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.neuron.2022.06.022

    View details for PubMedID 35952672

  • Multiplexed genome regulation in vivo with hyper-efficient Cas12a. Nature cell biology Guo, L. Y., Bian, J., Davis, A. E., Liu, P., Kempton, H. R., Zhang, X., Chemparathy, A., Gu, B., Lin, X., Rane, D. A., Xu, X., Jamiolkowski, R. M., Hu, Y., Wang, S., Qi, L. S. 2022


    Multiplexed modulation of endogenous genes is crucial for sophisticated gene therapy and cell engineering. CRISPR-Cas12a systems enable versatile multiple-genomic-loci targeting by processing numerous CRISPR RNAs (crRNAs) from a single transcript; however, their low efficiency has hindered in vivo applications. Through structure-guided protein engineering, we developed a hyper-efficient Lachnospiraceae bacterium Cas12a variant, termed hyperCas12a, with its catalytically dead version hyperdCas12a showing significantly enhanced efficacy for gene activation, particularly at low concentrations of crRNA. We demonstrate that hyperdCas12a has comparable off-target effects compared with the wild-type system and exhibits enhanced activity for gene editing and repression. Delivery of the hyperdCas12a activator and a single crRNA array simultaneously activating the endogenous Oct4, Sox2 and Klf4 genes in the retina of post-natal mice alters the differentiation of retinal progenitor cells. The hyperCas12a system offers a versatile in vivo tool for a broad range of gene-modulation and gene-therapy applications.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41556-022-00870-7

    View details for PubMedID 35414015

  • Cold protection allows local cryotherapy in a clinical-relevant model of traumatic optic neuropathy. eLife Zhang, Y., Li, M., Yu, B., Lu, S., Zhang, L., Zhu, S., Yu, Z., Xia, T., Huang, H., Jiang, W., Zhang, S., Sun, L., Ye, Q., Sun, J., Zhu, H., Huang, P., Hong, H., Yu, S., Li, W., Ai, D., Fan, J., Li, W., Song, H., Xu, L., Chen, X., Chen, T., Zhou, M., Ou, J., Yang, J., Li, W., Hu, Y., Wu, W. 2022; 11


    Therapeutic hypothermia (TH) is potentially an important therapy for central nervous system (CNS) trauma. However, its clinical application remains controversial, hampered by two major factors: 1) Many of the CNS injury sites, such as the optic nerve (ON), are deeply buried, preventing access for local TH. The alternative is to apply TH systemically, which significantly limits the applicable temperature range. 2) Even with possible access for "local refrigeration", cold-induced cellular damage offsets the benefit of TH. Here we present a clinically translatable model of traumatic optic neuropathy (TON) by applying clinical trans-nasal endoscopic surgery to goats and non-human primates. This model faithfully recapitulates clinical features of TON such as the injury site (pre-chiasmatic ON), the spatiotemporal pattern of neural degeneration, and the accessibility of local treatments with large operating space. We also developed a computer program to simplify the endoscopic procedure and expand this model to other large animal species. Moreover, applying a cold-protective treatment, inspired by our previous hibernation research, enables us to deliver deep hypothermia (4°C) locally to mitigate inflammation and metabolic stress (indicated by the transcriptomic changes after injury) without cold-induced cellular damage, and confers prominent neuroprotection both structurally and functionally. Intriguingly, neither treatment alone was effective, demonstrating that in situ deep hypothermia combined with cold protection constitutes a breakthrough for TH as a therapy for TON and other CNS traumas.

    View details for DOI 10.7554/eLife.75070

    View details for PubMedID 35352678

  • NMNAT2 Is Downregulated in Glaucomatous RGCs and RGC-Specific Gene Therapy Rescues Neurodegeneration and Visual Function. Molecular therapy : the journal of the American Society of Gene Therapy Fang, F., Zhuang, P., Feng, X., Liu, P., Liu, D., Huang, H., Li, L., Chen, W., Liu, L., Sun, Y., Jiang, H., Ye, J., Hu, Y. 1800


    The lack of neuroprotective treatments for retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) and optic nerve (ON) is a central challenge for glaucoma management. Emerging evidence suggests that redox factor NAD+ decline is a hallmark of aging and neurodegenerative diseases. Supplementation with NAD+ precursors and overexpression of NMNAT1, the key enzyme in the NAD+ biosynthetic process, have significant neuroprotective effects. We first profile the translatomes of RGCs in naive mice and mice with silicone oil-induced ocular hypertension (SOHU)/glaucoma by RiboTag mRNA sequencing. Intriguingly, only NMNAT2, but not NMNAT1 or NMNAT3, is significantly decreased in SOHU glaucomatous RGCs, which we confirm by in situ hybridization. We next demonstrate that AAV2 intravitreal injection-mediated overexpression of long half-life NMNAT2 mutant driven by RGC-specific mouse gamma-synuclein (mSncg) promoter restores decreased NAD+ levels in glaucomatous RGCs and ONs. Moreover, this RGC-specific gene therapy strategy delivers significant neuroprotection of both RGC soma and axon and preservation of visual function in the traumatic ON crush model and the SOHU glaucoma model. Collectively, our studies suggest that the weakening of NMNAT2 expression in glaucomatous RGCs contributes to a deleterious NAD+ decline and that modulating RGC intrinsic NMNAT2 levels by AAV2-mSncg vector is a promising gene therapy for glaucomatous neurodegeneration.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.ymthe.2022.01.035

    View details for PubMedID 35114390

  • Optic chiasmatic potential by endoscopically implanted skull base microinvasive biosensor: a brain-machine interface approach for anterior visual pathway assessment THERANOSTICS Zhang, Y., Lu, S., Huang, S., Yu, Z., Xia, T., Li, M., Yang, C., Mao, Y., Xu, B., Wang, L., Xu, L., Shi, J., Zhu, X., Zhu, S., Zhang, S., Qian, H., Hu, Y., Li, W., Tu, Y., Wu, W. 2022; 12 (7): 3273-3287


    Background: Visually evoked potential (VEP) is widely used to detect optic neuropathy in basic research and clinical practice. Traditionally, VEP is recorded non-invasively from the surface of the skull over the visual cortex. However, its trace amplitude is highly variable, largely due to intracranial modulation and artifacts. Therefore, a safe test with a strong and stable signal is highly desirable to assess optic nerve function, particularly in neurosurgical settings and animal experiments. Methods: Minimally invasive trans-sphenoidal endoscopic recording of optic chiasmatic potential (OCP) was carried out with a titanium screw implanted onto the sphenoid bone beneath the optic chiasm in the goat, whose sphenoidal anatomy is more human-like than non-human primates. Results: The implantation procedure was swift (within 30 min) and did not cause any detectable abnormality in fetching/moving behaviors, skull CT scans and ophthalmic tests after surgery. Compared with traditional VEP, the amplitude of OCP was 5-10 times stronger, more sensitive to weak light stimulus and its subtle changes, and was more repeatable, even under extremely low general anesthesia. Moreover, the OCP signal relied on ipsilateral light stimulation, and was abolished immediately after complete optic nerve (ON) transection. Through proof-of-concept experiments, we demonstrated several potential applications of the OCP device: (1) real-time detector of ON function, (2) detector of region-biased retinal sensitivity, and (3) therapeutic electrical stimulator for the optic nerve with low and thus safe excitation threshold. Conclusions: OCP developed in this study will be valuable for both vision research and clinical practice. This study also provides a safe endoscopic approach to implant skull base brain-machine interface, and a feasible in vivo testbed (goat) for evaluating safety and efficacy of skull base brain-machine interface.

    View details for DOI 10.7150/thno.71164

    View details for Web of Science ID 000790971700001

    View details for PubMedID 35547770

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC9065198

  • Chronic mild and acute severe glaucomatous neurodegeneration derived from silicone oil-induced ocular hypertension. Scientific reports Fang, F., Zhang, J., Zhuang, P., Liu, P., Li, L., Huang, H., Webber, H. C., Xu, Y., Liu, L., Dalal, R., Sun, Y., Hu, Y. 2021; 11 (1): 9052


    Recently, we established silicone oil-induced ocular hypertension (SOHU) mouse model with significant glaucomatous neurodegeneration. Here we characterize two additional variations of this model that simulate two distinct glaucoma types. The first is a chronic model produced by high frequency (HF) pupillary dilation after SO-induced pupillary block, which shows sustained moderate IOP elevation and corresponding slow, mild glaucomatous neurodegeneration. We also demonstrate that although SO removal quickly returns IOP to normal, the glaucomatous neurodegeneration continues to advance to a similar degree as in the HF group without SO removal. The second, an acute model created by no pupillary dilation (ND), shows a greatly elevated IOP and severe inner retina degeneration at an early time point. Therefore, by a straightforward dilation scheme, we extend our original SOHU model to recapitulate phenotypes of two major glaucoma forms, which will be invaluable for selecting neuroprotectants and elucidating their molecular mechanisms.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41598-021-88690-x

    View details for PubMedID 33907301

  • Optogenetic stimulation of phosphoinositides reveals a critical role of primary cilia in eye pressure regulation. Science advances Prosseda, P. P., Alvarado, J. A., Wang, B., Kowal, T. J., Ning, K., Stamer, W. D., Hu, Y., Sun, Y. 2020; 6 (18): eaay8699


    Glaucoma is a group of progressive optic neuropathies that cause irreversible vision loss. Although elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) is associated with the development and progression of glaucoma, the mechanisms for its regulation are not well understood. Here, we have designed CIBN/CRY2-based optogenetic constructs to study phosphoinositide regulation within distinct subcellular compartments. We show that stimulation of CRY2-OCRL, an inositol 5-phosphatase, increases aqueous humor outflow and lowers IOP in vivo, which is caused by a calcium-dependent actin rearrangement of the trabecular meshwork cells. Phosphoinositide stimulation also rescues defective aqueous outflow and IOP in a Lowe syndrome mouse model but not in IFT88fl/fl mice that lack functional cilia. Thus, our study is the first to use optogenetics to regulate eye pressure and demonstrate that tight regulation of phosphoinositides is critical for aqueous humor homeostasis in both normal and diseased eyes.

    View details for DOI 10.1126/sciadv.aay8699

    View details for PubMedID 32494665

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC7190330

  • Mouse gamma-Synuclein Promoter-Mediated Gene Expression and Editing in Mammalian Retinal Ganglion Cells. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience Wang, Q. n., Zhuang, P. S., Huang, H. n., Li, L. n., Liu, L. n., Webber, H. C., Dalal, R. n., Siew, L. n., Fligor, C. M., Chang, K. C., Nahmou, M. n., Kreymerman, A. n., Sun, Y. n., Meyer, J. S., Goldberg, J. L., Hu, Y. n. 2020


    Optic neuropathies are a group of optic nerve (ON) diseases caused by various insults including glaucoma, inflammation, ischemia, trauma and genetic deficits, which are characterized by retinal ganglion cell (RGC) death and ON degeneration. An increasing number of genes involved in RGC intrinsic signaling have been found to be promising neural repair targets that can potentially be modulated directly by gene therapy, if we can achieve RGC specific gene targeting. To address this challenge, we first used adeno associated virus (AAV)-mediated gene transfer to perform a low throughput in vivo screening in both male and female mouse eyes and identified the mouse γ-synuclein (mSncg) promoter, which specifically and potently sustained transgene expression in mouse RGCs and also works in human RGCs. We further demonstrated that gene therapy that combines AAV-mSncg promoter with CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing can knockdown pro-degenerative genes in RGCs and provide effective neuroprotection in optic neuropathies.Significance Statement:Here we present an RGC-specific promoter, mouse γ-synuclein (mSncg) promoter, and perform extensive characterization and proof-of-concept studies of mSncg promoter-mediated gene expression and CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing in RGCs in vivo To our knowledge, this is the first report demonstrating in vivo neuroprotection of injured RGCs and optic nerve by AAV-mediated CRISPR/Cas9 inhibition of genes that are critical for neurodegeneration. It represents a powerful tool to achieve RGC-specific gene modulation, and also opens up a promising gene therapy strategy for optic neuropathies, the most common form of eye diseases that cause irreversible blindness.

    View details for DOI 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0102-20.2020

    View details for PubMedID 32300046

  • Silicone oil-induced ocular hypertension and glaucomatous neurodegeneration in mouse ELIFE Zhang, J., Li, L., Huang, H., Fang, F., Webber, H. C., Zhuang, P., Liu, L., Dalal, R., Tang, P. H., Mahajan, V. B., Sun, Y., Li, S., Zhang, M., Goldberg, J. L., Hu, Y. 2019; 8
  • AKT-dependent and -independent pathways mediate PTEN deletion-induced CNS axon regeneration. Cell death & disease Huang, H., Miao, L., Yang, L., Liang, F., Wang, Q., Zhuang, P., Sun, Y., Hu, Y. 2019; 10 (3): 203


    Phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) acts as a brake for the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase-AKT-mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1) pathway, the deletion of which promotes potent central nervous system (CNS) axon regeneration. Previously, we demonstrated that AKT activation is sufficient to promote CNS axon regeneration to a lesser extent than PTEN deletion. It is still questionable whether AKT is entirely responsible for the regenerative effect of PTEN deletion on CNS axons. Here, we show that blocking AKT or its downstream effectors, mTORC1 and GSK3beta, significantly reduces PTEN deletion-induced mouse optic nerve regeneration, indicating the necessary role of AKT-dependent signaling. However, AKT is only marginally activated in PTEN-null mice due to mTORC1-mediated feedback inhibition. That combining PTEN deletion with AKT overexpression or GSK3beta deletion achieves significantly more potent axonal regeneration suggests an AKT-independent pathway for axon regeneration. Elucidating the AKT-independent pathway is required to develop effective strategies for CNS axon regeneration.

    View details for PubMedID 30814515

  • Neuroprotection by eIF2 alpha-CHOP inhibition and XBP-1 activation in EAE/optic neuritiss CELL DEATH & DISEASE Huang, H., Miao, L., Liang, F., Liu, X., Xu, L., Teng, X., Wang, Q., Ridder, W. H., Shindler, K. S., Sun, Y., Hu, Y. 2017; 8: e2936


    No therapies exist to prevent neuronal deficits in multiple sclerosis (MS), because the molecular mechanism responsible for the progressive neurodegeneration is unknown. We previously showed that axon injury-induced neuronal endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress plays an important role in retinal ganglion cell (RGC) death and optic nerve degeneration in traumatic and glaucomatous optic neuropathies. Optic neuritis, one of the most common clinical manifestations of MS, is readily modeled by experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) in mouse. Using this in vivo model, we now show that ER stress is induced early in EAE and that modulation of ER stress by inhibition of eIF2α-CHOP and activation of XBP-1 in RGC specifically, protects RGC somata and axons and preserves visual function. This finding adds to the evidence that ER stress is a general upstream mechanism for neurodegeneration and suggests that targeting ER stress molecules is a promising therapeutic strategy for neuroprotection in MS.

    View details for PubMedID 28726788

  • Rescue of Glaucomatous Neurodegeneration by Differentially Modulating Neuronal Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress Molecules JOURNAL OF NEUROSCIENCE Yang, L., Li, S., Miao, L., Huang, H., Liang, F., Teng, X., Xu, L., Wang, Q., Xiao, W., Ridder, W. H., Ferguson, T. A., Chen, D. F., Kaufman, R. J., Hu, Y. 2016; 36 (21): 5891-5903


    Axon injury is an early event in neurodegenerative diseases that often leads to retrograde neuronal cell death and progressive permanent loss of vital neuronal functions. The connection of these two obviously sequential degenerative events, however, is elusive. Deciphering the upstream signals that trigger the neurodegeneration cascades in both neuronal soma and axon would be a key step toward developing the effective neuroprotectants that are greatly needed in the clinic. We showed previously that optic nerve injury-induced neuronal endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress plays an important role in retinal ganglion cell (RGC) death. Using two in vivo mouse models of optic neuropathies (traumatic optic nerve injury and glaucoma) and adeno-associated virus-mediated RGC-specific gene targeting, we now show that differential manipulation of unfolded protein response pathways in opposite directions-inhibition of eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2α-C/EBP homologous protein and activation of X-box binding protein 1-promotes both RGC axons and somata survival and preserves visual function. Our results indicate that axon injury-induced neuronal ER stress plays an important role in both axon degeneration and neuron soma death. Neuronal ER stress is therefore a promising therapeutic target for glaucoma and potentially other types of neurodegeneration.Neuron soma and axon degeneration have distinct molecular mechanisms although they are clearly connected after axon injury. We previously demonstrated that axon injury induces neuronal endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and that manipulation of ER stress molecules synergistically promotes neuron cell body survival. Here we investigated the possibility that ER stress also plays a role in axon degeneration and whether ER stress modulation preserves neuronal function in neurodegenerative diseases. Our results suggest that neuronal ER stress is a general mechanism of degeneration for both neuronal cell body and axon, and that therapeutic targeting of ER stress produces significant functional recovery.

    View details for DOI 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3709-15.2016

    View details for Web of Science ID 000378345000020

    View details for PubMedID 27225776

  • mTORC1 is necessary but mTORC2 and GSK3ß are inhibitory for AKT3-induced axon regeneration in the central nervous system. eLife Miao, L., Yang, L., Huang, H., Liang, F., Ling, C., Hu, Y. 2016; 5


    Injured mature CNS axons do not regenerate in mammals. Deletion of PTEN, the negative regulator of PI3K, induces CNS axon regeneration through the activation of PI3K-mTOR signaling. We have conducted an extensive molecular dissection of the cross-regulating mechanisms in axon regeneration that involve the downstream effectors of PI3K, AKT and the two mTOR complexes (mTORC1 and mTORC2). We found that the predominant AKT isoform in CNS, AKT3, induces much more robust axon regeneration than AKT1 and that activation of mTORC1 and inhibition of GSK3β are two critical parallel pathways for AKT-induced axon regeneration. Surprisingly, phosphorylation of T308 and S473 of AKT play opposite roles in GSK3β phosphorylation and inhibition, by which mTORC2 and pAKT-S473 negatively regulate axon regeneration. Thus, our study revealed a complex neuron-intrinsic balancing mechanism involving AKT as the nodal point of PI3K, mTORC1/2 and GSK3β that coordinates both positive and negative cues to regulate adult CNS axon regeneration.

    View details for DOI 10.7554/eLife.14908

    View details for PubMedID 27026523

  • The mTORC1 effectors S6K1 and 4E-BP play different roles in CNS axon regeneration NATURE COMMUNICATIONS Yang, L., Miao, L., Liang, F., Huang, H., Teng, X., Li, S., Nuriddinov, J., Selzer, M. E., Hu, Y. 2014; 5


    Using mouse optic nerve (ON) crush as a CNS injury model, we and others have found that activation of the mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) in mature retinal ganglion cells by deletion of the negative regulators, phosphatase and tensin homologue (PTEN), and tuberous sclerosis 1 promotes ON regeneration. mTORC1 activation inhibits eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4E-binding protein (4E-BP) and activates ribosomal protein S6 kinase 1 (S6K1), both of which stimulate translation. We reasoned that mTORC1's regeneration-promoting effects might be separable from its deleterious effects by differential manipulation of its downstream effectors. Here we show that S6K1 activation, but not 4E-BP inhibition, is sufficient to promote axon regeneration. However, inhibition of 4E-BP is required for PTEN deletion-induced axon regeneration. Both activation and inhibition of S6K1 decrease the effect of PTEN deletion on axon regeneration, implicating a dual role of S6K1 in regulating axon growth.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/ncomms6416

    View details for Web of Science ID 000345624800037

    View details for PubMedID 25382660

  • Neuronal Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress in Axon Injury and Neurodegeneration ANNALS OF NEUROLOGY Li, S., Yang, L., Selzer, M. E., Hu, Y. 2013; 74 (6): 768-777


    Injuries to central nervous system axons result not only in Wallerian degeneration of the axon distal to the injury, but also in death or atrophy of the axotomized neurons, depending on injury location and neuron type. No method of permanently avoiding these changes has been found, despite extensive knowledge concerning mechanisms of secondary neuronal injury. The autonomous endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress pathway in neurons has recently been implicated in retrograde neuronal degeneration. In addition to the emerging role of ER morphology in axon maintenance, we propose that ER stress is a common neuronal response to disturbances in axon integrity and a general mechanism for neurodegeneration. Thus, manipulation of the ER stress pathway could have important therapeutic implications for neuroprotection.

    View details for DOI 10.1002/ana.24005

    View details for Web of Science ID 000329891100007

    View details for PubMedID 23955583

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3963272

  • Differential Effects of Unfolded Protein Response Pathways on Axon Injury-Induced Death of Retinal Ganglion Cells NEURON Hu, Y., Park, K. K., Yang, L., Wei, X., Yang, Q., Cho, K., Thielen, P., Lee, A., Cartoni, R., Glimcher, L. H., Chen, D. F., He, Z. 2012; 73 (3): 445-452


    Loss of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) accounts for visual function deficits after optic nerve injury, but how axonal insults lead to neuronal death remains elusive. By using an optic nerve crush model that results in the death of the majority of RGCs, we demonstrate that axotomy induces differential activation of distinct pathways of the unfolded protein response in axotomized RGCs. Optic nerve injury provokes a sustained CCAAT/enhancer binding homologous protein (CHOP) upregulation, and deletion of CHOP promotes RGC survival. In contrast, IRE/XBP-1 is only transiently activated, and forced XBP-1 activation dramatically protects RGCs from axon injury-induced death. Importantly, such differential activations of CHOP and XBP-1 and their distinct effects on neuronal cell death are also observed in RGCs with other types of axonal insults, such as vincristine treatment and intraocular pressure elevation, suggesting a new protective strategy for neurodegeneration associated with axonal damage.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.neuron.2011.11.026

    View details for Web of Science ID 000300140600007

    View details for PubMedID 22325198

  • Promoting Axon Regeneration in the Adult CNS by Modulation of the PTEN/mTOR Pathway SCIENCE Park, K. K., Liu, K., Hu, Y., Smith, P. D., Wang, C., Cai, B., Xu, B., Connolly, L., Kramvis, I., Sahin, M., He, Z. 2008; 322 (5903): 963-966


    The failure of axons to regenerate is a major obstacle for functional recovery after central nervous system (CNS) injury. Removing extracellular inhibitory molecules results in limited axon regeneration in vivo. To test for the role of intrinsic impediments to axon regrowth, we analyzed cell growth control genes using a virus-assisted in vivo conditional knockout approach. Deletion of PTEN (phosphatase and tensin homolog), a negative regulator of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway, in adult retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) promotes robust axon regeneration after optic nerve injury. In wild-type adult mice, the mTOR activity was suppressed and new protein synthesis was impaired in axotomized RGCs, which may contribute to the regeneration failure. Reactivating this pathway by conditional knockout of tuberous sclerosis complex 1, another negative regulator of the mTOR pathway, also leads to axon regeneration. Thus, our results suggest the manipulation of intrinsic growth control pathways as a therapeutic approach to promote axon regeneration after CNS injury.

    View details for DOI 10.1126/science.1161566

    View details for Web of Science ID 000260674100053

    View details for PubMedID 18988856

  • SARA, a FYVE domain protein, affects Rab5-mediated endocytosis JOURNAL OF CELL SCIENCE Hu, Y., Chuang, J. Z., Xu, K., McGraw, T. G., Sung, C. H. 2002; 115 (24): 4755-4763


    Rab5, a member of the small GTPase family of proteins, is primarily localized on early endosomes and has been proposed to participate in the regulation of early endosome trafficking. It has been reported that phosphatidylinositol 3-kinases and FYVE domain proteins, such as EEA1, can be recruited onto early endosomes and act as Rab5 effectors. SARA (Smad anchor for receptor activation), also a FYVE domain protein, was initially isolated as a participant in signal transduction from the transforming growth factor beta receptor. Overexpressed SARA has been found on EEA1-positive early endosomes. In this report, we show that endogenous SARA is present on early endosomes and overexpression of SARA causes endosomal enlargement. Functionally, SARA overexpression significantly delays the recycling of transferrin. The transferrin receptor distributed on the cell surfaces was also greatly reduced in cells overexpressing SARA. However, the internalization rate of transferrin is not affected by SARA overexpression. The morphological and functional alterations caused by SARA overexpression resemble those caused by overexpression of Rab5:GTP mutant Rab5Q79L. Finally, all SARA-mediated phenotypic changes can be counteracted by overexpression Rab5:GDP mutant Rab5S34N. These results collectively suggested that SARA plays an important functional role downstream of Rab5-regulated endosomal trafficking.

    View details for DOI 10.1242/jcs.00177

    View details for Web of Science ID 000180119000005

    View details for PubMedID 12432064

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3899687

  • Perivascular neurons instruct 3D vascular lattice formation via neurovascular contact. Cell Toma, K., Zhao, M., Zhang, S., Wang, F., Graham, H. K., Zou, J., Modgil, S., Shang, W. H., Tsai, N. Y., Cai, Z., Liu, L., Hong, G., Kriegstein, A. R., Hu, Y., Körbelin, J., Zhang, R., Liao, Y. J., Kim, T. N., Ye, X., Duan, X. 2024


    The vasculature of the central nervous system is a 3D lattice composed of laminar vascular beds interconnected by penetrating vessels. The mechanisms controlling 3D lattice network formation remain largely unknown. Combining viral labeling, genetic marking, and single-cell profiling in the mouse retina, we discovered a perivascular neuronal subset, annotated as Fam19a4/Nts-positive retinal ganglion cells (Fam19a4/Nts-RGCs), directly contacting the vasculature with perisomatic endfeet. Developmental ablation of Fam19a4/Nts-RGCs led to disoriented growth of penetrating vessels near the ganglion cell layer (GCL), leading to a disorganized 3D vascular lattice. We identified enriched PIEZO2 expression in Fam19a4/Nts-RGCs. Piezo2 loss from all retinal neurons or Fam19a4/Nts-RGCs abolished the direct neurovascular contacts and phenocopied the Fam19a4/Nts-RGC ablation deficits. The defective vascular structure led to reduced capillary perfusion and sensitized the retina to ischemic insults. Furthermore, we uncovered a Piezo2-dependent perivascular granule cell subset for cerebellar vascular patterning, indicating neuronal Piezo2-dependent 3D vascular patterning in the brain.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cell.2024.04.010

    View details for PubMedID 38733989

  • Compartmentalized ciliation changes of oligodendrocytes in aged mouse optic nerve. Journal of neuroscience research Ning, K., Tran, M., Kowal, T. J., Mesentier-Louro, L. A., Sendayen, B. E., Wang, Q., Lo, C. H., Li, T., Majumder, R., Luo, J., Hu, Y., Liao, Y. J., Sun, Y. 2024; 102 (1): e25273


    Primary cilia are microtubule-based sensory organelles that project from the apical surface of most mammalian cells, including oligodendrocytes, which are myelinating cells of the central nervous system (CNS) that support critical axonal function. Dysfunction of CNS glia is associated with aging-related white matter diseases and neurodegeneration, and ciliopathies are known to affect CNS white matter. To investigate age-related changes in ciliary profile, we examined ciliary length and frequency in the retinogeniculate pathway, a white matter tract commonly affected by diseases of aging but in which expression of cilia has not been characterized. We found expression of Arl13b, a marker of primary cilia, in a small group of Olig2-positive oligodendrocytes in the optic nerve, optic chiasm, and optic tract in young and aged C57BL/6 wild-type mice. While the ciliary length and ciliated oligodendrocyte cells were constant in young mice in the retinogeniculate pathway, there was a significant increase in ciliary length in the anterior optic nerve as compared to the aged animals. Morphometric analysis confirmed a specific increase in the ciliation rate of CC1+ /Olig2+ oligodendrocytes in aged mice compared with young mice. Thus, the prevalence of primary cilia in oligodendrocytes in the visual pathway and the age-related changes in ciliation suggest that they may play important roles in white matter and age-associated optic neuropathies.

    View details for DOI 10.1002/jnr.25273

    View details for PubMedID 38284846

  • Cilia-associated wound repair mediated by IFT88 in retinal pigment epithelium. Scientific reports Ning, K., Bhuckory, M. B., Lo, C. H., Sendayen, B. E., Kowal, T. J., Chen, M., Bansal, R., Chang, K. C., Vollrath, D., Berbari, N. F., Mahajan, V. B., Hu, Y., Sun, Y. 2023; 13 (1): 8205


    Primary cilia are conserved organelles that integrate extracellular cues into intracellular signals and are critical for diverse processes, including cellular development and repair responses. Deficits in ciliary function cause multisystemic human diseases known as ciliopathies. In the eye, atrophy of the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) is a common feature of many ciliopathies. However, the roles of RPE cilia in vivo remain poorly understood. In this study, we first found that mouse RPE cells only transiently form primary cilia. We then examined the RPE in the mouse model of Bardet-Biedl Syndrome 4 (BBS4), a ciliopathy associated with retinal degeneration in humans, and found that ciliation in BBS4 mutant RPE cells is disrupted early during development. Next, using a laser-induced injury model in vivo, we found that primary cilia in RPE reassemble in response to laser injury during RPE wound healing and then rapidly disassemble after the repair is completed. Finally, we demonstrated that RPE-specific depletion of primary cilia in a conditional mouse model of cilia loss promoted wound healing and enhanced cell proliferation. In summary, our data suggest that RPE cilia contribute to both retinal development and repair and provide insights into potential therapeutic targets for more common RPE degenerative diseases.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41598-023-35099-3

    View details for PubMedID 37211572

    View details for PubMedCentralID 6513937

  • Distribution of prototypical primary cilia markers in subtypes of retinal ganglion cells. The Journal of comparative neurology Kowal, T. J., Dhande, O. S., Wang, B., Wang, Q., Ning, K., Liu, W., Berbari, N. F., Hu, Y., Sun, Y. 2022


    Loss of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) underlies several forms of retinal disease including glaucomatous optic neuropathy, a leading cause of irreversible blindness. Several rare genetic disorders associated with cilia dysfunction have retinal degeneration as a clinical hallmark. Much of the focus of ciliopathy associated blindness is on the connecting cilium of photoreceptors; however, RGCs also possess primary cilia. It is unclear what roles RGC cilia play, what proteins and signaling machinery localize to RGC cilia, or how RGC cilia are differentiated across the subtypes of RGCs. To better understand these questions, we assessed the presence or absence of a prototypical cilia marker Arl13b and a widely distributed neuronal cilia marker AC3 in different subtypes of mouse RGCs. Interestingly, not all RGC subtype cilia are the same and there are significant differences even among these standard cilia markers. Alpha-RGCs positive for osteopontin, calretinin, and SMI32 primarily possess AC3-positive cilia. Directionally selective RGCs that are CART positive or Trhr positive localize either Arl13b or AC3, respectively, in cilia. Intrinsically photosensitive RGCs differentially localize Arl13b and AC3 based on melanopsin expression. Taken together, we characterized the localization of gold standard cilia markers in different subtypes of RGCs and conclude that cilia within RGC subtypes may be differentially organized. Future studies aimed at understanding RGC cilia function will require a fundamental ability to observe the cilia across subtypes as their signaling protein composition is elucidated. A comprehensive understanding of RGC cilia may reveal opportunities to understanding how their dysfunction leads to retinal degeneration.

    View details for DOI 10.1002/cne.25326

    View details for PubMedID 35434813

  • Primary Cilia in Amacrine Cells in Retinal Development. Investigative ophthalmology & visual science Ning, K., Sendayen, B. E., Kowal, T. J., Wang, B., Jones, B. W., Hu, Y., Sun, Y. 2021; 62 (9): 15


    Purpose: Primary cilia are conserved organelles found in polarized cells within the eye that regulate cell growth, migration, and differentiation. Although the role of cilia in photoreceptors is well-studied, the formation of cilia in other retinal cell types has received little attention. In this study, we examined the ciliary profile focused on the inner nuclear layer of retinas in mice and rhesus macaque primates.Methods: Retinal sections or flatmounts from Arl13b-Cetn2 tg transgenic mice were immunostained for cell markers (Pax6, Sox9, Chx10, Calbindin, Calretinin, ChaT, GAD67, Prox1, TH, and vGluT3) and analyzed by confocal microscopy. Primate retinal sections were immunostained for ciliary and cell markers (Pax6 and Arl13b). Optical coherence tomography (OCT) and ERGs were used to assess visual function of Vift88 mice.Results: During different stages of mouse postnatal eye development, we found that cilia are present in Pax6-positive amacrine cells, which were also observed in primate retinas. The cilia of subtypes of amacrine cells in mice were shown by immunostaining and electron microscopy. We also removed primary cilia from vGluT3 amacrine cells in mouse and found no significant vision defects. In addition, cilia were present in the outer limiting membrane, suggesting that a population of Muller glial cells forms cilia.Conclusions: We report that several subpopulations of amacrine cells in inner nuclear layers of the retina form cilia during early retinal development in mice and primates.

    View details for DOI 10.1167/iovs.62.9.15

    View details for PubMedID 34241625

  • OCRL regulates lysosome positioning and mTORC1 activity through SSX2IP-mediated microtubule anchoring. EMBO reports Wang, B., He, W., Prosseda, P. P., Li, L., Kowal, T. J., Alvarado, J. A., Wang, Q., Hu, Y., Sun, Y. 2021: e52173


    Lysosomal positioning and mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin) signaling coordinate cellular responses to nutrient levels. Inadequate nutrient sensing can result in growth delays, a hallmark of Lowe syndrome. OCRL mutations cause Lowe syndrome, but the role of OCRL in nutrient sensing is unknown. Here, we show that OCRL is localized to the centrosome by its ASH domain and that it recruits microtubule-anchoring factor SSX2IP to the centrosome, which is important in the formation of the microtubule-organizing center. Deficiency of OCRL in human and mouse cells results in loss of microtubule-organizing centers and impaired microtubule-based lysosome movement, which in turn leads to mTORC1 inactivation and abnormal nutrient sensing. Centrosome-targeted PACT-SSX2IP can restore microtubule anchoring and mTOR activity. Importantly, boosting the activity of mTORC1 restores the nutrient sensing ability of Lowe patients' cells. Our findings highlight mTORC1 as a novel therapeutic target for Lowe syndrome.

    View details for DOI 10.15252/embr.202052173

    View details for PubMedID 33987909

  • Optogenetic Modulation of Intraocular Pressure in a Glucocorticoid-Induced Ocular Hypertension Mouse Model. Translational vision science & technology Kowal, T. J., Prosseda, P. P., Ning, K., Wang, B., Alvarado, J., Sendayen, B. E., Jabbehdari, S., Stamer, W. D., Hu, Y., Sun, Y. 2021; 10 (6): 10


    Steroid-induced glaucoma is a common form of secondary open angle glaucoma characterized by ocular hypertension (elevated intraocular pressure [IOP]) in response to prolonged glucocorticoid exposure. Elevated IOP occurs with increased outflow resistance and altered trabecular meshwork (TM) function. Recently, we used an optogenetic approach in TM to regulate the 5-phosphatase, OCRL, which contributes to regulating PI(4,5)P2 levels. Here, we applied this system with the aim of reversing compromised outflow function in a steroid-induced ocular hypertension mouse model.Elevated IOP was induced by chronic subconjunctival dexamethasone injections in wild-type C57Bl/6j mice. AAV2 viruses containing optogenetic modules of cryptochrome 2 (Cry2)-OCRL-5ptase and CIBN-GFP were injected into the anterior chamber. Four weeks after viral expression and dexamethasone exposure, IOP was measured by tonometer and outflow facility was measured by perfusion apparatus. Human TM cells were treated with dexamethasone, stimulated by light and treated with rhodamine-phalloidin to analyze actin structure.Dexamethasone treatment elevated IOP and decreased outflow facility in wild-type mice. Optogenetic constructs were expressed in the TM of mouse eyes. Light stimulation caused CRY2-OCRL-5ptase to translocate to plasma membrane (CIBN-CAAX-GFP) and cilia (CIBN-SSTR3-GFP) in TM cells, which rescued the IOP and outflow facility. In addition, aberrant actin structures formed by dexamethasone treatment were reduced by optogenetic stimulation in human TM cells in culture.Subcellular targeting of inositol phosphatases to remove PIP2 represents a promising strategy to reverse defective TM function in steroid-induced ocular hypertension.Targeted modulation of OCRL may be used to decrease steroid-induced elevated IOP.

    View details for DOI 10.1167/tvst.10.6.10

    View details for PubMedID 34111256

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC8107493

  • In vivo interactome profiling by enzyme-catalyzed proximity labeling. Cell & bioscience Xu, Y., Fan, X., Hu, Y. 2021; 11 (1): 27


    Enzyme-catalyzed proximity labeling (PL) combined with mass spectrometry (MS) has emerged as a revolutionary approach to reveal the protein-protein interaction networks, dissect complex biological processes, and characterize the subcellular proteome in a more physiological setting than before. The enzymatic tags are being upgraded to improve temporal and spatial resolution and obtain faster catalytic dynamics and higher catalytic efficiency. In vivo application of PL integrated with other state of the art techniques has recently been adapted in live animals and plants, allowing questions to be addressed that were previously inaccessible. It is timely to summarize the current state of PL-dependent interactome studies and their potential applications. We will focus on in vivo uses of newer versions of PL and highlight critical considerations for successful in vivo PL experiments that will provide novel insights into the protein interactome in the context of human diseases.

    View details for DOI 10.1186/s13578-021-00542-3

    View details for PubMedID 33514425

  • Post-translational modification of Sox11 regulates RGC survival and axon regeneration. eNeuro Chang, K., Bian, M., Xia, X., Madaan, A., Sun, C., Wang, Q., Li, L., Nahmou, M., Noro, T., Yokota, S., Galvao, J., Kreymerman, A., Tanasa, B., Hu, Y., Goldberg, J. L. 2021


    The failure of adult CNS neurons to survive and regenerate their axons after injury or in neurodegenerative disease remains a major target for basic and clinical neuroscience. Recent data demonstrated in the adult mouse that exogenous expression of Sry-related high-mobility-box 11 (Sox11) promotes optic nerve regeneration after optic nerve injury, but exacerbates the death of a subset of retinal ganglion cells, alpha-RGCs. During development, Sox11 is required for RGC differentiation from retinal progenitor cells (RPCs), and we found that mutation of a single residue to prevent sumoylation at lysine 91 (K91) increased nuclear localization and RGC differentiation in vitro Here we explored whether this Sox11 manipulation similarly has stronger effects on RGC survival and optic nerve regeneration. In vitro, we found that non-SUMOylatable Sox11K91A leads to RGC death and suppresses axon outgrowth in primary neurons. We furthermore found that Sox11K91A more strongly promotes axon regeneration but also increases RGC death after optic nerve injury in vivo in adult mouse. RNA sequence data showed that Sox11 and Sox11K91A increase the expression of key signaling pathway genes associated with axon growth and regeneration but downregulated Spp1 and Opn4 expression in RGC cultures, consistent with negatively regulating the survival of alpha-RGCs and ipRGCs. Thus Sox11 and its sumoylation site at K91 regulate gene expression, survival and axon growth in RGCs and may be explored further as potential regenerative therapies for optic neuropathy.Significance Statement Sox11 expression promotes optic nerve regeneration but also increases RGC death after optic nerve injury. Here we demonstrate that mutation of a single SUMOylation site on Sox11 (Sox11K91A) leads to stronger effects in vivo RNA sequencing analysis reveals that Sox11 and Sox11K91A differentially regulate downstream gene expression related to axon growth and guidance. Understanding these effects of post-translational modification of Sox11 in regulating regeneration in vivo suggests a potent therapeutic strategy for vision restoration in optic neuropathies.

    View details for DOI 10.1523/ENEURO.0358-20.2020

    View details for PubMedID 33441400

  • Neuronal NMNAT2 Overexpression Does Not Achieve Significant Neuroprotection in Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis/Optic Neuritis. Frontiers in cellular neuroscience Liu, P., Huang, H., Fang, F., Liu, L., Li, L., Feng, X., Chen, W., Dalal, R., Sun, Y., Hu, Y. 2021; 15: 754651


    Optic neuritis, inflammation, and demyelination of the optic nerve (ON), is one of the most common clinical manifestations of multiple sclerosis; affected patients suffer persistent visual symptoms due to ON degeneration and secondary retinal ganglion cell (RGC) death. The mouse experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) model replicates optic neuritis and significant RGC soma and axon loss. Nicotinamide mononucleotide adenylyltransferases (NMNATs) are NAD+-synthetic enzymes that have been shown to be essential for axon integrity, activation of which significantly delays axonal Wallerian degeneration. NMNAT2, which is enriched in axons, has been proposed as a promising therapeutic target for axon injury-induced neurodegeneration. We therefore investigated whether activation of NMNAT2 can be used as a gene therapy strategy for neuroprotection in EAE/optic neuritis. To avoid the confounding effects in inflammatory cells, which play important roles in EAE initiation and progression, we used an RGC-specific promoter to drive the expression of the long half-life NMNAT2 mutant in mouse RGCs in vivo. However, optical coherence tomography in vivo retina imaging did not reveal significant protection of the ganglion cell complex, and visual function assays, pattern electroretinography, and optokinetic response also showed no improvement in mice with NMNAT2 overexpression. Postmortem histological analysis of retina wholemounts and semithin sections of ON confirmed the in vivo results: NMNAT2 activation in RGCs does not provide significant neuroprotection of RGCs in EAE/optic neuritis. Our studies suggest that a different degenerative mechanism than Wallerian degeneration is involved in autoimmune inflammatory axonopathy and that NMNAT2 may not be a major contributor to this mechanism.

    View details for DOI 10.3389/fncel.2021.754651

    View details for PubMedID 34707482

  • Inhibition of GCK-IV kinases dissociates cell death and axon regeneration in CNS neurons. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Patel, A. K., Broyer, R. M., Lee, C. D., Lu, T., Louie, M. J., La Torre, A., Al-Ali, H., Vu, M. T., Mitchell, K. L., Wahlin, K. J., Berlinicke, C. A., Jaskula-Ranga, V., Hu, Y., Duan, X., Vilar, S., Bixby, J. L., Weinreb, R. N., Lemmon, V. P., Zack, D. J., Welsbie, D. S. 2020


    Axon injury is a hallmark of many neurodegenerative diseases, often resulting in neuronal cell death and functional impairment. Dual leucine zipper kinase (DLK) has emerged as a key mediator of this process. However, while DLK inhibition is robustly protective in a wide range of neurodegenerative disease models, it also inhibits axonal regeneration. Indeed, there are no genetic perturbations that are known to both improve long-term survival and promote regeneration. To identify such a neuroprotective target, we conducted a set of complementary high-throughput screens using a protein kinase inhibitor library in human stem cell-derived retinal ganglion cells (hRGCs). Overlapping compounds that promoted both neuroprotection and neurite outgrowth were bioinformatically deconvoluted to identify specific kinases that regulated neuronal death and axon regeneration. This work identified the role of germinal cell kinase four (GCK-IV) kinases in cell death and additionally revealed their unexpected activity in suppressing axon regeneration. Using an adeno-associated virus (AAV) approach, coupled with genome editing, we validated that GCK-IV kinase knockout improves neuronal survival, comparable to that of DLK knockout, while simultaneously promoting axon regeneration. Finally, we also found that GCK-IV kinase inhibition also prevented the attrition of RGCs in developing retinal organoid cultures without compromising axon outgrowth, addressing a major issue in the field of stem cell-derived retinas. Together, these results demonstrate a role for the GCK-IV kinases in dissociating the cell death and axonal outgrowth in neurons and their druggability provides for therapeutic options for neurodegenerative diseases.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.2004683117

    View details for PubMedID 33318207

  • Coupled Control of Distal Axon Integrity and Somal Responses to Axonal Damage by the Palmitoyl Acyltransferase ZDHHC17. Cell reports Niu, J., Sanders, S. S., Jeong, H., Holland, S. M., Sun, Y., Collura, K. M., Hernandez, L. M., Huang, H., Hayden, M. R., Smith, G. M., Hu, Y., Jin, Y., Thomas, G. M. 2020; 33 (7): 108365


    After optic nerve crush (ONC), the cell bodies and distal axons of most retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) degenerate. RGC somal and distal axon degenerations were previously thought to be controlled by two parallel pathways, involving activation of the kinase dual leucine-zipper kinase (DLK) and loss of the axon survival factor nicotinamide mononucleotide adenylyltransferase-2 (NMNAT2), respectively. Here, we report that palmitoylation of both DLK and NMNAT2 by the palmitoyl acyltransferase ZDHHC17 couples these signals. ZDHHC17-dependent palmitoylation enables DLK-dependent somal degeneration after ONC and also ensures NMNAT-dependent distal axon integrity in healthy optic nerves. We provide evidence that ZDHHC17 also controls survival-versus-degeneration decisions in dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons, and we identify conserved motifs in NMNAT2 and DLK that govern their ZDHHC17-dependent regulation. These findings suggest that the control of somal and distal axon integrity should be considered as a single, holistic process, mediated by the concerted action of two palmitoylation-dependent pathways.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.celrep.2020.108365

    View details for PubMedID 33207199

  • Comparing silicone oil-induced ocular hypertension with other inducible glaucoma models in mice NEURAL REGENERATION RESEARCH Zhang, J., Hu, Y. 2020; 15 (9): 1652–53
  • Gene therapy for neurodegenerative disorders: advances, insights and prospects ACTA PHARMACEUTICA SINICA B Chen, W., Hu, Y., Ju, D. 2020; 10 (8): 1347–59


    Gene therapy is rapidly emerging as a powerful therapeutic strategy for a wide range of neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer's disease (AD), Parkinson's disease (PD) and Huntington's disease (HD). Some early clinical trials have failed to achieve satisfactory therapeutic effects. Efforts to enhance effectiveness are now concentrating on three major fields: identification of new vectors, novel therapeutic targets, and reliable of delivery routes for transgenes. These approaches are being assessed closely in preclinical and clinical trials, which may ultimately provide powerful treatments for patients. Here, we discuss advances and challenges of gene therapy for neurodegenerative disorders, highlighting promising technologies, targets, and future prospects.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.apsb.2020.01.015

    View details for Web of Science ID 000567649600001

    View details for PubMedID 32963936

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC7488363

  • In vivo evaluation of retinal ganglion cells and optic nerve's integrity in large animals by multi-modality analysis. Experimental eye research Zhang, Y., Zhang, S., Xia, Y., Ji, Y., Jiang, W., Li, M., Huang, H., Xu, M., Sun, J., Ye, Q., Hu, Y., Wu, W. 2020: 108117


    Large animal models of optic nerve injury are essential for translating novel findings into effective therapies due to their similarity to humans in many respects. However, most current tests evaluating the integrity of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) and optic nerve (ON) are based on rodent animal models. We aimed to evaluate and optimize the in vivo methods to assess RGCs and ON's function and structure in large animals in terms of reproducibility, simplicity and sensitivity. Bothe goats and rhesus macaques were employed in this study. By using goats, we found anesthesia with isoflurane or xylazine resulted in different effects on reproducibility of flash visual evoked potential (FVEP) and pattern electroretinogram (PERG). FVEP with the large-Ganzfeld stimulator was significantly more stable than that with mini-Ganzfeld stimulator. PERG with simultaneous binocular stimulation, with superior simplicity over separate monocular stimulation, was appliable in goats due to undetectable interocular crosstalk of PERG signals. After ON crush in goats, some FVEP components, PERG, OCT and PLR demonstrated significant changes, in line with the histological study. By using rhesus macaque, we found the implicit time of PVEP, FVEP and PERG were significantly more reproducible than amplitudes, and OCT and PLR demonstrated small intersession variation. In summary, we established an optimized system to evaluate integrity of RGCs and ON in large animals in vivo, facilitating usage of large animal models of optic nerve diseases.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.exer.2020.108117

    View details for PubMedID 32598972

  • Defective INPP5E distribution in NPHP1-related Senior-Loken syndrome. Molecular genetics & genomic medicine Ning, K. n., Song, E. n., Sendayen, B. E., Prosseda, P. P., Chang, K. C., Ghaffarieh, A. n., Alvarado, J. A., Wang, B. n., Haider, K. M., Berbari, N. F., Hu, Y. n., Sun, Y. n. 2020: e1566


    Senior-Loken syndrome is a rare genetic disorder that presents with nephronophthisis and retinal degeneration, leading to end-stage renal disease and progressive blindness. The most frequent cause of juvenile nephronophthisis is a mutation in the nephronophthisis type 1 (NPHP1) gene. NPHP1 encodes the protein nephrocystin-1, which functions at the transition zone (TZ) of primary cilia.We report a 9-year-old Senior-Loken syndrome boy with NPHP1 deletion, who presents with bilateral vision decrease and cystic renal disease. Renal function deteriorated to require bilateral nephrectomy and renal transplant. We performed immunohistochemistry, H&E staining, and electron microscopy on the renal sample to determine the subcellular distribution of ciliary proteins in the absence of NPHP1.Immunohistochemistry and electron microscopy of the resected kidney showed disorganized cystic structures with loss of cilia in renal tubules. Phosphoinositides have been recently recognized as critical components of the ciliary membrane and immunostaining of kidney sections for phosphoinositide 5-phosphatase, INPP5E, showed loss of staining compared to healthy control. Ophthalmic examination showed decreased electroretinogram consistent with early retinal degeneration.The decreased expression of INPP5E specifically in the primary cilium, coupled with disorganized cilia morphology, suggests a novel role of NPHP1 that it is involved in regulating ciliary phosphoinositide composition in the ciliary membrane of renal tubular cells.

    View details for DOI 10.1002/mgg3.1566

    View details for PubMedID 33306870

  • Oculocerebrorenal syndrome of Lowe: Survey of ophthalmic presentations and management. European journal of ophthalmology Ma, X. n., Ning, K. n., Jabbehdari, S. n., Prosseda, P. P., Hu, Y. n., Shue, A. n., Lambert, S. R., Sun, Y. n. 2020: 1120672120920544

    View details for DOI 10.1177/1120672120920544

    View details for PubMedID 32340490

  • Longitudinal Morphological and Functional Assessment of RGC Neurodegeneration After Optic Nerve Crush in Mouse. Frontiers in cellular neuroscience Li, L. n., Huang, H. n., Fang, F. n., Liu, L. n., Sun, Y. n., Hu, Y. n. 2020; 14: 109


    The mouse optic nerve crush (ONC) model has been widely used to study optic neuropathies and central nervous system (CNS) axon injury and repair. Previous histological studies of retinal ganglion cell (RGC) somata in retina and axons in ON demonstrate significant neurodegeneration after ONC, but longitudinal morphological and functional assessment of RGCs in living animals is lacking. It is essential to establish these assays to provide more clinically relevant information for early detection and monitoring the progression of CNS neurodegeneration. Here, we present in vivo data gathered by scanning laser ophthalmoscopy (SLO), optical coherence tomography (OCT), and pattern electroretinogram (PERG) at different time points after ONC in mouse eyes and corresponding histological quantification of the RGC somata and axons. Not surprisingly, direct visualization of RGCs by SLO fundus imaging correlated best with histological quantification of RGC somata and axons. Unexpectedly, OCT did not detect obvious retinal thinning until late time points (14 and 28-days post ONC) and instead detected significant retinal swelling at early time points (1-5 days post-ONC), indicating a characteristic initial retinal response to ON injury. PERG also demonstrated an early RGC functional deficit in response to ONC, before significant RGC death, suggesting that it is highly sensitive to ONC. However, the limited progression of PERG deficits diminished its usefulness as a reliable indicator of RGC degeneration.

    View details for DOI 10.3389/fncel.2020.00109

    View details for PubMedID 32410964

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC7200994

  • Developmental Distribution of Primary Cilia in the Retinofugal Visual Pathway. The Journal of comparative neurology Alvarado, J. A., Dhande, O. S., Prosseda, P. P., Kowal, T. J., Ning, K. n., Jabbehdari, S. n., Hu, Y. n., Sun, Y. n. 2020


    The mammalian visual system is composed of circuitry connecting sensory input from the retina to the processing core of the visual cortex. The two main retinorecipient brain targets, the superior colliculus (SC) and dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus (dLGN), bridge retinal input and visual output. The primary cilium is a conserved organelle increasingly viewed as a critical sensor for the regulation of developmental and homeostatic pathways in most mammalian cell types. Moreover, cilia have been described as crucial for neurogenesis, neuronal maturation, and survival in the cortex and retina. However, cilia in the visual relay center remain to be fully described. In this study, we characterized the ciliation profile of the SC and dLGN and found that the overall number of ciliated cells declined during development. Interestingly, shorter ciliated cells in both regions were identified as neurons, whose numbers remained stable over time, suggesting that cilia retention is a critical feature for optimal neuronal function in SC and dLGN. Our study suggests that primary cilia are important for neuronal maturation and function in cells of the SC and dLGN.

    View details for DOI 10.1002/cne.25029

    View details for PubMedID 32939774

  • A Reversible Silicon Oil-Induced Ocular Hypertension Model in Mice. Journal of visualized experiments : JoVE Zhang, J., Fang, F., Li, L., Huang, H., Webber, H. C., Sun, Y., Mahajan, V. B., Hu, Y. 2019


    Elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) is a well-documented risk factor for glaucoma. Here we describe a novel, effective method for consistently inducing stable IOP elevation in mice that mimics the post-operative complication of using silicone oil (SO) as a tamponade agent in human vitreoretinal surgery. In this protocol, SO is injected into the anterior chamber of the mouse eye to block the pupil and prevent inflow of aqueous humor. The posterior chamber accumulates aqueous humor and this in turn increases the IOP of the posterior segment. A single SO injection produces reliable, sufficient, and stable IOP elevation, which induces significant glaucomatous neurodegeneration. This model is a true replicate of secondary glaucoma in the eye clinic. To further mimic the clinical setting, SO can be removed from the anterior chamber to reopen the drainage pathway and allow inflow of aqueous humor, which is drained through the trabecular meshwork (TM) at the angle of the anterior chamber. Because IOP quickly returns to normal, the model can be used to test the effect of lowering IOP on glaucomatous retinal ganglion cells. This method is straightforward, does not require special equipment or repeat procedures, closely simulates clinical situations, and may be applicable to diverse animal species. However, minor modifications may be required.

    View details for DOI 10.3791/60409

    View details for PubMedID 31789319

  • Increased ER Stress After Experimental Ischemic Optic Neuropathy and Improved RGC and Oligodendrocyte Survival After Treatment With Chemical Chaperon. Investigative ophthalmology & visual science Kumar, V., Mesentier-Louro, L. A., Oh, A. J., Heng, K., Shariati, M. A., Huang, H., Hu, Y., Liao, Y. J. 2019; 60 (6): 1953–66


    Purpose: Increased endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress is one of the earliest subcellular changes in neuro-ophthalmic diseases. In this study, we investigated the expression of key molecules in the ER stress pathways following nonarteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (AION), the most common acute optic neuropathy in adults over 50, and assessed the impact of chemical chaperon 4-phenylbutyric acid (4-PBA) in vivo.Methods: We induced AION using photochemical thrombosis in adult mice and performed histologic analyses of key molecules in the ER stress pathway in the retina and optic nerve. We also assessed the effects of daily intraperitoneal injections of 4-PBA after AION.Results: In the retina at baseline, there was low proapoptotic transcriptional regulator C/EBP homologous protein (CHOP) and high prosurvival chaperon glucose-regulated protein 78 (GRP78) expression in retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). One day after AION, there was significantly increased CHOP and reduced GRP78 expressions in the ganglion cell layer. In the optic nerve at baseline, there was little CHOP and high GRP78 expression. One day after AION, there was significantly increased CHOP and no change in GRP78 expression. Treatment immediately after AION using daily intraperitoneal injection of chemical chaperone 4-PBA for 19 days significantly rescued Brn3A+ RGCs and Olig2+ optic nerve oligodendrocytes.Conclusions: We showed for the first time that acute AION resulted in increased ER stress and differential expression of ER stress markers CHOP and GRP78 in the retina and optic nerve. Rescue of RGCs and oligodendrocytes with 4-PBA provides support for ER stress reduction as possible treatment for AION.

    View details for PubMedID 31060051

  • Role of Translational Attenuation in Inherited Retinal Degeneration. Investigative ophthalmology & visual science Starr, C. R., Nyankerh, C. N., Qi, X. n., Hu, Y. n., Gorbatyuk, O. S., Sonenberg, N. n., Boulton, M. E., Gorbatyuk, M. S. 2019; 60 (14): 4849–57


    We reported previously that retinas of mice with inherited retinal degeneration make less protein than retinas of normal mice. Despite recent studies suggesting that diminished protein synthesis rates may contribute to neurologic disorders, a direct link between protein synthesis rates and the progression of neurodegeneration has not been established. Moreover, it remains unclear whether reduced protein synthesis could be involved in retinal pathogenesis. Dysregulation of AKT/mTOR signaling has been reported in the retina during retinal degeneration, but to what extent this signaling contributes to translational attenuation in these mice remains uncertain.C57BL/6J and rd16 mice were subcutaneously injected with anisomycin to chronically inhibit protein synthesis rates. An AAV2 construct encoding constitutively active 4ebp1 was subretinally delivered in wildtype animals to lower protein synthesis rates. 4ebp1/2 were knocked out in rd16 mice.Anisomycin treatment lowered retinal translation rates, accelerated retinal degeneration in rd16 mice, and initiated cell death in the retinas of C57BL/6J mice. AAV-mediated transfer of constitutively active 4ebp1-4A into the subretinal space of wildtype animals inhibited protein synthesis, and led to reduced electroretinography amplitudes and fewer ONL nuclei. Finally, we report that restoring protein synthesis rates by knocking out 4ebp1/2 was associated with an approximately 2-fold increase in rhodopsin levels and a delay in retinal degeneration in rd16 mice.Our study indicates that protein synthesis inhibition is likely not a cell defense mechanism in the retina by which deteriorating photoreceptors survive, but may be harmful to degenerating retinas, and that restoring protein synthesis may have therapeutic potential in delaying the progression of retinal degeneration.

    View details for DOI 10.1167/iovs.19-27512

    View details for PubMedID 31747684

  • Lab review: Molecular dissection of the signal transduction pathways associated with PTEN deletion-induced optic nerve regeneration. Restorative neurology and neuroscience Huang, H. n., Kaur, S. n., Hu, Y. n. 2019; 37 (6): 545–52


    Permanent loss of vital functions after central nervous system (CNS) injury occurs in part because axons in the adult mammalian CNS do not regenerate after injury. PTEN was identified as a prominent intrinsic inhibitor of CNS axon regeneration about 10 years ago. The PTEN negatively regulated PI3K-AKT-mTOR pathway, which has been intensively explored in diverse models of axon injury and diseases and its mechanism for axon regeneration is becoming clearer.It is timely to summarize current knowledge about the PTEN/AKT/mTOR pathway and discuss future directions of translational regenerative research for neural injury and neurodegenerative diseases.Using mouse optic nerve crush as an in vivo retinal ganglion cell axon injury model, we have conducted an extensive molecular dissection of the PI3K-AKT-mTORC1/mTORC2 pathway to illuminate the cross-regulating mechanisms in axon regeneration.AKT is the nodal point that coordinates both positive (PI3K-PDK1-pAKT-T308) and negative (PI3K-mTORC2-pAKT-S473) signals to regulate adult CNS axon regeneration through two parallel pathways, activating mTORC1 and inhibiting GSK3β. However, mTORC1/S6K1-mediated feedback inhibition after PTEN deletion prevents potent AKT activation.A key permissive signal from an unidentified AKT-independent pathway is required for stimulating the neuron-intrinsic growth machinery. Future studies into this complex neuron-intrinsic balancing mechanism involving necessary and permissive signals for axon regeneration is likely to lead to safe and effective regenerative strategies for CNS repair.

    View details for DOI 10.3233/RNN-190949

    View details for PubMedID 31839616

  • Coordination of Necessary and Permissive Signals by PTEN Inhibition for CNS Axon Regeneration FRONTIERS IN NEUROSCIENCE Zhang, J., Yang, D., Huang, H., Sun, Y., Hu, Y. 2018; 12
  • A Robust System for Production of Superabundant VP1 Recombinant AAV Vectors MOLECULAR THERAPY-METHODS & CLINICAL DEVELOPMENT Wang, Q., Wu, Z., Zhang, J., Firrman, J., Wei, H., Zhuang, Z., Liu, L., Miao, L., Hu, Y., Li, D., Diao, Y., Xiao, W. 2017; 7: 146–56


    Recombinant adeno-associated viral (rAAV) vectors have been widely used in human gene therapy. One major impediment to its broad application is the inability to produce high-quality vectors in mass quantity. Here, an efficient and scalable suspension cell culture system for the production of rAAV vectors is described. In this system, the AAV trans factors, Rep78, Rep52, VP1, VP2, and VP3, were stably integrated into a single vaccinia virus carrier by maximizing the use of alternative codons between genes with identical amino acids, and the cis rAAV genome was carried by an E1/E3 gene-deleted adenovirus. Infection of improved, E1 integrated, suspension-cultured cells with these two viral vectors resulted in the robust production of rAAV vectors. The newly enhanced system can consistently produce ∼1 × 1015 genome containing rAAV vectors per liter of suspension cells. Moreover, the capsid composition of rAAV vectors produced by this system is markedly different from those produced using the traditional system in that the VP1 protein is more abundant than the VP2 protein (19:1 versus 1:1). The unique VP1 superabundant rAAV vectors produced in this new system exhibited improved transduction in vivo after intravitreal injection.

    View details for PubMedID 29255740

  • Loss of OCRL increases ciliary PI(4,5)P2 in Lowe oculocerebrorenal syndrome. Journal of cell science Prosseda, P. P., Luo, N. n., Wang, B. n., Alvarado, J. A., Hu, Y. n., Sun, Y. n. 2017; 130 (20): 3447–54


    Lowe syndrome is a rare X-linked disorder characterized by bilateral congenital cataracts and glaucoma, mental retardation, and proximal renal tubular dysfunction. Mutations in OCRL, an inositol polyphosphate 5-phosphatase that dephosphorylates PI(4,5)P2, cause Lowe syndrome. Previously we showed that OCRL localizes to the primary cilium, which has a distinct membrane phospholipid composition, but disruption of phosphoinositides in the ciliary membrane is poorly understood. Here, we demonstrate that cilia from Lowe syndrome patient fibroblasts exhibit increased levels of PI(4,5)P2 and decreased levels of PI4P. In particular, subcellular distribution of PI(4,5)P2 build-up was observed at the transition zone. Accumulation of ciliary PI(4,5)P2 was pronounced in mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) derived from Lowe syndrome mouse model as well as in Ocrl-null MEFs, which was reversed by reintroduction of OCRL. Similarly, expression of wild-type OCRL reversed the elevated PI(4,5)P2 in Lowe patient cells. Accumulation of sonic hedgehog protein in response to hedgehog agonist was decreased in MEFs derived from a Lowe syndrome mouse model. Together, our findings show for the first time an abnormality in ciliary phosphoinositides of both human and mouse cell models of Lowe syndrome.

    View details for PubMedID 28871046

  • Axon injury induced endoplasmic reticulum stress and neurodegeneration. Neural regeneration research Hu, Y. 2016; 11 (10): 1557-1559


    Injury to central nervous system axons is a common early characteristic of neurodegenerative diseases. Depending on its location and the type of neuron, axon injury often leads to axon degeneration, retrograde neuronal cell death and progressive permanent loss of vital neuronal functions. Although these sequential events are clearly connected, ample evidence indicates that neuronal soma and axon degenerations are active autonomous processes with distinct molecular mechanisms. By exploiting the anatomical and technical advantages of the retinal ganglion cell (RGC)/optic nerve (ON) system, we demonstrated that inhibition of the PERK-eIF2α-CHOP pathway and activation of the X-box binding protein 1 pathway synergistically protect RGC soma and axon, and preserve visual function, in both acute ON traumatic injury and chronic glaucomatous neuropathy. The autonomous endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress pathway in neurons has been implicated in several other neurodegenerative diseases. In addition to the emerging role of ER morphology in axon maintenance, we propose that ER stress is a common upstream signal for disturbances in axon integrity, and that it leads to a retrograde signal that can subsequently induce neuronal soma death. Therefore manipulation of the ER stress pathway may be a key step toward developing the effective neuroprotectants that are greatly needed in the clinic.

    View details for DOI 10.4103/1673-5374.193225

    View details for PubMedID 27904477

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5116825

  • The necessary role of mTORC1 in central nervous system axon regeneration NEURAL REGENERATION RESEARCH Hu, Y. 2015; 10 (2): 186-188

    View details for DOI 10.4103/1673-5374.152363

    View details for Web of Science ID 000351783300005

    View details for PubMedID 25883608

  • PTEN/mTOR and axon regeneration EXPERIMENTAL NEUROLOGY Park, K. K., Liu, K., Hu, Y., Kanter, J. L., He, Z. 2010; 223 (1): 45-50


    How axon regeneration is controlled in both PNS and CNS remains elusive. Mechanistic studies of axon growth during development and axon regeneration after injury reveal the PTEN dependent molecular mechanism as a commonality. This pathway could impact the processes occurring in the neuronal soma, such as mTOR-regulated protein translation, and in the axons, such as cytoskeleton assembly. In this review, we will discuss the current understanding of the involvement of these processes in the regulation of axon growth and the potential implication in promoting axon regeneration after injury.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.expneurol.2009.12.032

    View details for Web of Science ID 000277377000007

    View details for PubMedID 20079353

  • Regulation of STAT pathways and IRF1 during human dendritic cell maturation by TNF-alpha and PGE2 JOURNAL OF LEUKOCYTE BIOLOGY Hu, Y., Park-Min, K., Yarilina, A., Ivashkiv, L. B. 2008; 84 (5): 1353-1360


    Maturation of dendritic cells (DCs) by TLR ligands induces expression of IFN-beta and autocrine activation of IFN-inducible Stat1-dependent genes important for DC function. In this study, we analyzed the regulation of STAT signaling during maturation of human DCs by TNF-alpha and PGE2, which induced maturation of human DCs comparably with LPS but did not induce detectable IFN-beta production or Stat1 tyrosine phosphorylation. Consistent with these results, TNF-alpha and PGE2 did not induce Stat1 DNA binding to a standard Stat1-binding oligonucleotide. Instead, TNF-alpha and PGE2 increased Stat1 serine phosphorylation and Stat4 tyrosine phosphorylation and activated expression of the NF-kappaB and Stat1 target gene IFN regulatory factor 1 (IRF1), which contributes to IFN responses. TNF-alpha and PGE2 induced a complex that bound an oligonucleotide derived from the IRF1 promoter that contains a STAT-binding sequence embedded in a larger palindromic sequence, and this complex was recognized by Stat1 antibodies. These results suggest that TNF-alpha and PGE2 activate STAT-mediated components of human DC maturation by alternative pathways to the IFN-beta-mediated autocrine loop used by TLRs.

    View details for DOI 10.1189/jlb.0107040

    View details for Web of Science ID 000260016300016

    View details for PubMedID 18678606

  • IFN-gamma and STAT1 arrest monocyte migration and modulate RAC/CDC42 pathways JOURNAL OF IMMUNOLOGY Hu, Y., Hu, X., Boumsell, L., Ivashkiv, L. B. 2008; 180 (12): 8057-8065


    Positive regulation of cell migration by chemotactic factors and downstream signaling pathways has been extensively investigated. In contrast, little is known about factors and mechanisms that induce migration arrest, a process important for retention of cells at inflammatory sites and homeostatic regulation of cell trafficking. In this study, we found that IFN-gamma directly inhibited monocyte migration by suppressing remodeling of the actin cytoskeleton and cell polarization in response to the chemokine CCL2. Inhibition was dependent on STAT1 and downstream genes, whereas STAT3 promoted migration. IFN-gamma altered monocyte responses to CCL2 by modulating the activity of Pyk2, JNK, and the GTPases Rac and Cdc42, and inhibiting CCL2-induced activation of the downstream p21-activated kinase that regulates the cytoskeleton and cell polarization. These results identify a new role for IFN-gamma in arresting monocyte chemotaxis by a mechanism that involves modulation of cytoskeleton remodeling. Crosstalk between Jak-STAT and Rac/Cdc42 GTPase-mediated signaling pathways provides a molecular mechanism by which cytokines can regulate cell migration.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000257404600030

    View details for PubMedID 18523269

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC2742170

  • Apoptotic cells inhibit LPS-induced cytokine and chemokine production and IFN responses in macrophages HUMAN IMMUNOLOGY Tassiulas, I., Park-Min, K., Hu, Y., Kellerman, L., Mevorach, D., Ivashkiv, L. B. 2007; 68 (3): 156-164


    Apoptosis is a critical process in tissue homeostasis and results in immediate removal of the dying cell by professional phagocytes such as macrophages and dendritic cells. Phagocytosis of apoptotic cells actively suppresses production of proinflammatory growth factors and cytokines. Impaired phagocytosis of apoptotic cells has been implicated in the pathogenesis of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. In this study we found that, in addition to suppressing lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced production of TNF-alpha and IL-6, phagocytosis of apoptotic cells by macrophages suppressed production of the chemokine CXCL10 that is activated by LPS-induced autocrine-acting type I IFNs. Inhibition of cytokine and chemokine production was not universally affected because LPS-induced production of IL-10 and IL-8 was not significantly affected. Apoptotic cells had minimal effects on LPS-induced activation of NF-kappaB and MAPKs, but induced expression of SOCS proteins and substantially suppressed induction of CXCL10 expression by IFN-alpha. In addition to suppressing LPS responses, apoptotic cells inhibited macrophage responses to another major macrophage activator IFN-gamma by attenuating IFN-gamma-induced STAT1 activation and downstream gene expression. These results identify suppressive effects of apoptotic cells on signal transduction, and extend our understanding of the anti-inflammatory effects of apoptotic cells to include suppression of Jak-STAT signaling.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.humimm.2006.12.008

    View details for Web of Science ID 000245084400002

    View details for PubMedID 17349870

  • Osteoarthritis and therapy ARTHRITIS & RHEUMATISM-ARTHRITIS CARE & RESEARCH Ge, Z., Hu, Y., Heng, B. C., Yang, Z., Ouyang, H., Lee, E. H., Cao, T. 2006; 55 (3): 493-500

    View details for DOI 10.1002/art.21994

    View details for Web of Science ID 000238172900021

    View details for PubMedID 16739189

  • Costimulation of chemokine receptor signaling by matrix metalloproteinase-9 mediates enhanced migration of IFN-alpha dendritic cells JOURNAL OF IMMUNOLOGY Hu, Y., Ivashkiv, L. B. 2006; 176 (10): 6022-6033


    Type I IFNs induce differentiation of dendritic cells (DCs) with potent Ag-presenting capacity, termed IFN-alpha DCs, that have been implicated in the pathogenesis of systemic lupus erythematosus. In this study, we found that IFN-alpha DCs exhibit enhanced migration across the extracellular matrix (ECM) in response to chemokines CCL3 and CCL5 that recruit DCs to inflammatory sites, but not the lymphoid-homing chemokine CCL21. IFN-alpha DCs expressed elevated matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9), which mediated increased migration across ECM. Unexpectedly, MMP-9 and its cell surface receptors CD11b and CD44 were required for enhanced CCL5-induced chemotaxis even in the absence of a matrix barrier. MMP-9, CD11b, and CD44 selectively modulated CCL5-dependent activation of JNK that was required for enhanced chemotactic responses. These results establish the migratory phenotype of IFN-alpha DCs and identify an important role for costimulation of chemotactic responses by synergistic activation of JNK. Thus, cell motility is regulated by integrating signaling inputs from chemokine receptors and molecules such as MMP-9, CD11b, and CD44 that also mediate cell interactions with inflammatory factors and ECM.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000237705200041

    View details for PubMedID 16670311

  • IFN-alpha priming results in a gain of proinflammatory function by IL-10: Implications for systemic lupus erythematosus pathogenesis JOURNAL OF IMMUNOLOGY Sharif, M. N., Tassiulas, I., Hu, Y., Mecklenbrauker, I., Tarakhovsky, A., Ivashkiv, L. B. 2004; 172 (10): 6476-6481


    Interleukin-10 is a predominantly anti-inflammatory cytokine that inhibits macrophage and dendritic cell function, but can acquire proinflammatory activity during immune responses. We investigated whether type I IFNs, which are elevated during infections and in autoimmune diseases, modulate the activity of IL-10. Priming of primary human macrophages with low concentrations of IFN-alpha diminished the ability of IL-10 to suppress TNF-alpha production. IFN-alpha conferred a proinflammatory gain of function on IL-10, leading to IL-10 activation of expression of IFN-gamma-inducible, STAT1-dependent genes such as IFN regulatory factor 1, IFN-gamma-inducible protein-10 (CXCL10), and monokine induced by IFN-gamma (CXCL9). IFN-alpha priming resulted in greatly enhanced STAT1 activation in response to IL-10, and STAT1 was required for IL-10 activation of IFN-gamma-inducible protein-10 and monokine induced by IFN-gamma expression in IFN-alpha-primed cells. In control, unprimed cells, IL-10 activation of STAT1 was suppressed by constitutive activity of protein kinase C and Src homology 2 domain-containing phosphatase 1. These results demonstrate that type I IFNs regulate the balance between IL-10 anti- and proinflammatory activity, and provide insight into molecular mechanisms that regulate IL-10 function. Gain of IL-10 proinflammatory functions may contribute to its pathogenic role in autoimmune diseases characterized by elevated type I IFN levels, such as systemic lupus erythematosus.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000221276900085

    View details for PubMedID 15128840