Publications by authors named "Rita Maccarone"

26 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

The Impact of Oxidative Stress on Blood-Retinal Barrier Physiology in Age-Related Macular Degeneration.

Cells 2021 Jan 4;10(1). Epub 2021 Jan 4.

Department of Biotechnological and Applied Clinical Sciences, University of L'Aquila, 67100 L'Aquila, Italy.

The blood retinal barrier (BRB) is a fundamental eye component, whose function is to select the flow of molecules from the blood to the retina and vice-versa, and its integrity allows the maintenance of a finely regulated microenvironment. The outer BRB, composed by the choriocapillaris, the Bruch's membrane, and the retinal pigment epithelium, undergoes structural and functional changes in age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness worldwide. BRB alterations lead to retinal dysfunction and neurodegeneration. Several risk factors have been associated with AMD onset in the past decades and oxidative stress is widely recognized as a key factor, even if the exact AMD pathophysiology has not been exactly elucidated yet. The present review describes the BRB physiology, the BRB changes occurring in AMD, the role of oxidative stress in AMD with a focus on the outer BRB structures. Moreover, we propose the use of cerium oxide nanoparticles as a new powerful anti-oxidant agent to combat AMD, based on the relevant existing data which demonstrated their beneficial effects in protecting the outer BRB in animal models of AMD.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/cells10010064DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7823525PMC
January 2021

Multidisciplinary Treatment, Including Locoregional Chemotherapy, for Merkel-Polyomavirus-Positive Merkel Cell Carcinomas: Perspectives for Patients Exhibiting Oncogenic Alternative Δ exon 6-7 TrkAIII Splicing of Neurotrophin Receptor Tropomyosin-Related Kinase A.

Int J Mol Sci 2020 Nov 3;21(21). Epub 2020 Nov 3.

Department of Applied Clinical Sciences and Biotechnology, University of L'Aquila, 67100 L'Aquila, Italy.

Merkel cell carcinomas (MCCs) are rare, aggressive, cutaneous neuroendocrine tumours, approximately 80% of which are caused by the genomic integration of Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV). MCPyV-positive MCCs carry poor prognosis in approximately 70% of cases, highlighting the need for greater understanding of the oncogenic mechanisms involved in pathogenesis, progression and post-therapeutic relapse, and translation into novel therapeutic strategies. In a previous pilot study, we reported a potential relationship between gene expression and oncogenic alternative Δ exon 6-7 TrkAIII splicing in formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) MCC tissues from a 12-patient cohort of >90% MCPyV-positive MCCs, diagnosed at San Salvatore Hospital, L'Aquila, Italy, characterising a new MCC subgroup and unveiling a novel potential MCPyV oncogenic mechanism and therapeutic target. This, however, could not be fully verified due to poor RNA quality and difficulty in protein extraction from FFPE tissues. Here, therefore, we extend our previous observations to confirm the relationship between MCPyV and oncogenic alternative Δ exon 6-7 TrkAIII splicing in fresh, nonfixed, MCPyV-positive MCC metastasis by detecting sequence-verified RT-PCR products, including full-length Δ exon 6-7 TrkAIII, and by Western blot detection of a 100 kDa TrkA protein isoform of identical size to 100 kDa Δ exon 6-7 TrkAIII expressed by stable transfected SH-SY5Y cells. We also report that in three MCC patients submitted for multidisciplinary treatment, including locoregional chemotherapy, MCPyV large T-antigen mRNA expression, Δ exon 6-7 TrkAIII mRNA expression and intracellular indirect immunofluorescence (IF) TrkA and phosphorylation protein isoform(s) immunoreactivity in FFPE tissues were not reduced in postchemotherapeutic-relapsed MCCs compared to pretherapeutic MCCs, extending the possible roles of this novel potential MCPyV oncogenic mechanism from MCC pathogenesis to post-therapeutic relapse and progression. Detection of alternative Δ exon 6-7 TrkAIII splicing in MCC, therefore, not only characterises a new MCPyV-positive MCC subgroup and unveils a novel potential MCPyV oncogenic mechanism but also identifies patients who may benefit from inhibitors of MCPyV T-antigen and/or TrkAIII expression or clinically approved Trk kinase inhibitors such as larotrectinib or entrectinib, which are known to inhibit activated TrkA oncogenes and to elicit durable responses in TrkA-fusion oncogene-driven cancers, supporting the call for a large-scale multicentre clinical study.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ijms21218222DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7662965PMC
November 2020

Nanoceria Particles Are an Eligible Candidate to Prevent Age-Related Macular Degeneration by Inhibiting Retinal Pigment Epithelium Cell Death and Autophagy Alterations.

Cells 2020 07 4;9(7). Epub 2020 Jul 4.

Department of Biotechnology and Applied Clinical Sciences, University of L'Aquila, via Vetoio, Coppito 2, 67100 L'Aquila, Italy.

Retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) dysfunction and degeneration underlie the development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is the leading cause of blindness worldwide. In this study, we investigated whether cerium oxide nanoparticles (CeO-NPs or nanoceria), which are anti-oxidant agents with auto-regenerative properties, are able to preserve the RPE. On ARPE-19 cells, we found that CeO-NPs promoted cell viability against HO-induced cellular damage. For the in vivo studies, we used a rat model of acute light damage (LD), which mimics many features of AMD. CeO-NPs intravitreally injected three days before LD prevented RPE cell death and degeneration and nanoceria labelled with fluorescein were found localized in the cytoplasm of RPE cells. CeO-NPs inhibited epithelial-mesenchymal transition of RPE cells and modulated autophagy by the down-regulation of LC3B-II and p62. Moreover, the treatment inhibited nuclear localization of LC3B. Taken together, our study demonstrates that CeO-NPs represent an eligible candidate to counteract RPE degeneration and, therefore, a powerful therapy for AMD.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/cells9071617DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7408137PMC
July 2020

Ophthalmic Applications of Cerium Oxide Nanoparticles.

J Ocul Pharmacol Ther 2020 Jul/Aug;36(6):376-383. Epub 2019 Dec 5.

Department of Life, Health and Environmental Sciences, University of L'Aquila, L'Aquila, Italy.

Cerium oxide nanoparticles (CeO-NPs; or nanoceria) have been largely studied for biomedical applications due to their peculiar auto-regenerative antioxidant activity. This review focuses on ophthalmic applications of nanoceria. Many data indicate that nanoceria protect the retina from neurodegeneration. In particular, they have been tested in animal models of age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa and their neuroprotective properties have been shown to persist for a long time, without any collateral effects. cytotoxicity studies have shown that CeO-NPs could be safe for lens cells and could represent a new therapy for cataract treatment, but further studies are needed. To date, different pharmaceutical formulations based on nanoceria have been created looking at future clinical ophthalmic applications, such as water-soluble nanoceria, glycol chitosan-coated ceria nanoparticles (GCCNPs), and alginate-gelatin hydrogel loaded GCCNPs. GCCNPs were also effective in preventing choroidal neovascularization . Based on the nanosize of nanoceria, corneal permeation could be achieved to allow topical treatment of nanoceria. PEGylation and encapsulation in liposomes represent the main strategies to support corneal permeation, without altering nanoceria chemical-physical properties. Based on their great antioxidant properties, safety, and nanosize, nanoceria represent a new potential therapeutic for the treatment of several eye disorders.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1089/jop.2019.0105DOI Listing
December 2019

A pilot study of alternative TrkAIII splicing in Merkel cell carcinoma: a potential oncogenic mechanism and novel therapeutic target.

J Exp Clin Cancer Res 2019 Oct 22;38(1):424. Epub 2019 Oct 22.

Department of Applied Clinical and Biotechnological Sciences, University of L'Aquila, 67100, L'Aquila, Italy.

Background: Merkel cell carcinomas (MCCs) are rare, aggressive, therapeutically-challenging skin tumours that are increasing in incidence and have poor survival rates. The majority are caused by genomic Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV) integration and MCPyV T-antigen expression. Recently, a potential oncogenic role for the tropomyosin-related tyrosine kinase A receptor (TrkA) has been proposed in MCC. Alternative TrkAIII splicing is a TrkA oncogenic activation mechanism that can be promoted by SV40 large T-antigen, an analogue of MCPyV large T-antigen. In this pilot study, therefore, we have evaluated TrkAIII splicing as a novel potential oncogenic mechanism and therapeutic target in MCPyV positive MCC.

Methods: Formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded MCC tissues, consisting of 10 stage IV, 1 stage IIIB, 1 stage IIB, 4 stage IIA and 2 stage I tumours, from patients diagnosed and treated from September 2006 to March, 2019, at the University of L'Aquila, L'Aquila, Italy, were compared to 3 primary basal cell carcinomas (BCCs), 3 primary squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) and 2 normal skin samples by RT-PCR for MCPyV large T-antigen, small T-antigen, VP-1 expression and alternative TrkAIII splicing and by indirect IF for evidence of intracellular TrkA isoform expression and activation.

Results: 9 of 10 Recurrent stage IV MCCs were from patients (P.1-3) treated with surgery plus loco-regional Melphalan chemotherapy and remaining MMCs, including 1 stage IV tumour, were from patients treated with surgery alone (P. 4-11). All MCPyV positive MCCs exhibiting MCPyV large T-antigen expression (17 of 18MCCs, 90%) exhibited alternative TrkAIII mRNA splicing (100%), which was exclusive in a significant number and predominant (> 50%) in all stage IV MCCs and the majority of stage 1-III MCCs. MCCs with higher TrkAIII to 18S rRNA expression ratios also exhibited strong or intermediate immunoreactivity to anti-TrkA antibodies, consistent with cytoplasmic TrkAIII expression and activation. In contrast, the MCPyV negative MCC, BCCs, SCCs and normal skin tissues all exhibited exclusive fully-spliced TrkA mRNA expression, associated with variable immunoreactivity for non-phosphorylated but not phosphorylated TrkA.

Conclusions: MCPyV positive MCCs but not MCPyV negative MCC, BCCs and SCCs exhibit predominant alternative TrkAIII splicing, with evidence of intracellular TrkAIII activation. This establishes a new potential MCC subset, unveils a novel potential MCPyV oncogenic mechanism and identifies TrkAIII as a novel potential therapeutic target in MCPyV positive MCC.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13046-019-1425-3DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6805356PMC
October 2019

Fluorescent light induces neurodegeneration in the rodent nigrostriatal system but near infrared LED light does not.

Brain Res 2017 05 2;1662:87-101. Epub 2017 Mar 2.

Department of Applied Clinical and Biotechnological Sciences, University of L'Aquila, 67100 L'Aquila, Italy.

We investigated the effects of continuous artificial light exposure on the mouse substantia nigra (SN). A three month exposure of C57Bl/6J mice to white fluorescent light induced a 30% reduction in dopamine (DA) neurons in SN compared to controls, accompanied by a decrease of DA and its metabolites in the striatum. After six months of exposure, neurodegeneration progressed slightly, but the level of DA returned to the basal level, while the metabolites increased with respect to the control. Three month exposure to near infrared LED light (∼710nm) did not alter DA neurons in SN, nor did it decrease DA and its metabolites in the striatum. Furthermore mesencephalic cell viability, as tested by [H]DA uptake, did not change. Finally, we observed that 710nm LED light, locally conveyed in the rat SN, could modulate the firing activity of extracellular-recorded DA neurons. These data suggest that light can be detrimental or beneficial to DA neurons in SN, depending on the source and wavelength.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.brainres.2017.02.026DOI Listing
May 2017

A fully organic retinal prosthesis restores vision in a rat model of degenerative blindness.

Nat Mater 2017 06 6;16(6):681-689. Epub 2017 Mar 6.

Center for Synaptic Neuroscience and Technology, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Genoa, Italy.

The degeneration of photoreceptors in the retina is one of the major causes of adult blindness in humans. Unfortunately, no effective clinical treatments exist for the majority of retinal degenerative disorders. Here we report on the fabrication and functional validation of a fully organic prosthesis for long-term in vivo subretinal implantation in the eye of Royal College of Surgeons rats, a widely recognized model of retinitis pigmentosa. Electrophysiological and behavioural analyses reveal a prosthesis-dependent recovery of light sensitivity and visual acuity that persists up to 6-10 months after surgery. The rescue of the visual function is accompanied by an increase in the basal metabolic activity of the primary visual cortex, as demonstrated by positron emission tomography imaging. Our results highlight the possibility of developing a new generation of fully organic, highly biocompatible and functionally autonomous photovoltaic prostheses for subretinal implants to treat degenerative blindness.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nmat4874DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5446789PMC
June 2017

Modulation of Type-1 and Type-2 Cannabinoid Receptors by Saffron in a Rat Model of Retinal Neurodegeneration.

PLoS One 2016 18;11(11):e0166827. Epub 2016 Nov 18.

Department of Medicine, Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome, Rome, Italy.

Experimental studies demonstrated that saffron (Crocus sativus) given as a dietary supplement counteracts the effects of bright continuous light (BCL) exposure in the albino rat retina, preserving both morphology and function and probably acting as a regulator of programmed cell death [1]. The purpose of this study was to ascertain whether the neuroprotective effect of saffron on rat retina exposed to BCL is associated with a modulation of the endocannabinoid system (ECS). To this aim, we used eight experimental groups of Sprague-Dawley rats, of which six were exposed to BCL for 24 hours. Following retinal function evaluation, retinas were quickly removed for biochemical and morphological analyses. Rats were either saffron-prefed or intravitreally injected with selective type-1 (CB1) or type-2 (CB2) cannabinoid receptor antagonists before BCL. Prefeeding and intravitreally injections were combined in two experimental groups before BCL. BCL exposure led to enhanced gene and protein expression of retinal CB1 and CB2 without affecting the other ECS elements. This effect of BCL on CB1 and CB2 was reversed by saffron treatment. Selective CB1 and CB2 antagonists reduced photoreceptor death, preserved morphology and visual function of retina, and mitigated the outer nuclear layer (ONL) damage due to BCL. Of interest, CB2-dependent neuroprotection was more pronounced than that conferred by CB1. These data suggest that BCL modulates only distinct ECS elements like CB1 and CB2, and that saffron and cannabinoid receptors could share the same mechanism in order to afford retinal protection.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0166827PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5115823PMC
June 2017

Characterization of a Polymer-Based, Fully Organic Prosthesis for Implantation into the Subretinal Space of the Rat.

Adv Healthc Mater 2016 09 30;5(17):2271-82. Epub 2016 May 30.

Center for Synaptic Neuroscience and Technology, Fondazione Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Largo Giovanna Benzi 10, 16132, Genova, Italy.

Replacement strategies arise as promising approaches in case of inherited retinal dystrophies leading to blindness. A fully organic retinal prosthesis made of conjugated polymers layered onto a silk fibroin substrate is engineered. First, the biophysical and surface properties are characterized; then, the long-term biocompatibility is assessed after implantation of the organic device in the subretinal space of 3-months-old rats for a period of five months. The results indicate a good stability of the subretinal implants over time, with preservation of the physical properties of the polymeric layer and a tight contact with the outer retina. Immunoinflammatory markers detect only a modest tissue reaction to the surgical insult and the foreign body that peaks shortly after surgery and progressively decreases with time to normal levels at five months after implantation. Importantly, the integrity of the polymeric layer in direct contact with the retinal tissue is preserved after five months of implantation. The recovery of the foreign-body tissue reaction is also associated with a normal b-wave in the electroretinographic response. The results demonstrate that the device implanted in nondystrophic eyes is well tolerated, highly biocompatible, and suitable as retinal prosthesis in case of photoreceptor degeneration.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/adhm.201600318DOI Listing
September 2016

Cerium Oxide Nanoparticles Reduce Microglial Activation and Neurodegenerative Events in Light Damaged Retina.

PLoS One 2015 15;10(10):e0140387. Epub 2015 Oct 15.

Department of Applied Clinical Science and Biotechnology, University of L'Aquila, Via Vetoio, Coppito II, 67100 L'Aquila, Italy.

The first target of any therapy for retinal neurodegeneration is to slow down the progression of the disease and to maintain visual function. Cerium oxide or ceria nanoparticles reduce oxidative stress, which is known to play a pivotal role in neurodegeneration. Our aim was to investigate whether cerium oxide nanoparticles were able to mitigate neurodegeneration including microglial activation and related inflammatory processes induced by exposure to high intensity light. Cerium oxide nanoparticles were injected intravitreally or intraveinously in albino Sprague-Dawley rats three weeks before exposing them to light damage of 1000 lux for 24 h. Electroretinographic recordings were performed a week after light damage. The progression of retinal degeneration was evaluated by measuring outer nuclear layer thickness and TUNEL staining to quantify photoreceptors death. Immunohistochemical analysis was used to evaluate retinal stress, neuroinflammatory cytokines and microglial activation. Only intravitreally injected ceria nanoparticles were detected at the level of photoreceptor outer segments 3 weeks after the light damage and electoretinographic recordings showed that ceria nanoparticles maintained visual response. Moreover, this treatment reduced neuronal death and "hot spot" extension preserving the outer nuclear layer morphology. It is noteworthy that in this work we demonstrated, for the first time, the ability of ceria nanoparticles to reduce microglial activation and their migration toward outer nuclear layer. All these evidences support ceria nanoparticles as a powerful therapeutic agent in retinal neurodegenerative processes.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0140387PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4607482PMC
June 2016

Retrograde TrkAIII transport from ERGIC to ER: a re-localisation mechanism for oncogenic activity.

Oncotarget 2015 Nov;6(34):35636-51

Department of Applied Clinical and Biotechnological Sciences, University of L'Aquila, L'Aquila, Italy.

In human SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma (NB) cells, nascent immature N-glycosylated 110kDa TrkA moves rapidly from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) to the Golgi Network (GN), where it matures into the 140kDa receptor prior to being transported to the cell surface, creating GN and cell surface pools of inactive receptor maintained below the spontaneous activation threshold by a full compliment of inhibitory domains and endogenous PTPases. In contrast, the oncogenic alternative TrkAIII splice variant is not expressed at the cell surface but re-localises to intracellular membranes, within which it exhibits spontaneous ERGIC/COPI-associated activation and oncogenic Akt signalling. In this study, we characterise the mechanism responsible for TrkAIII re-localisation. Spontaneous TrkAIII activation, facilitated by D4 IG-like domain and N-glycosylation site omission, increases spontaneous activation potential by altering intracellular trafficking, inhibiting cell surface expression and eliminating an important inhibitory domain. TrkAIII, spontaneously activated within the permissive ERGIC/COPI compartment, rather than moving in an anterograde direction to the GN exhibits retrograde transport back to the ER, where it is inactivated. This sets-up self-perpetuating TrkAIII re-cycling between the ERGIC and ER, that ensures continual accumulation above the spontaneous activation threshold of the ERGIC/COPI compartment. This is reversed by TrkA tyrosine kinase inhibitors, which promote anterograde transport of inactivated TrkAIII to the GN, resulting in GN-associated TrkAIII maturation to a 120kDa species that is degraded at the proteasome.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.5802DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4742131PMC
November 2015

Slow-release drug delivery through Elvax 40W to the rat retina: implications for the treatment of chronic conditions.

J Vis Exp 2014 Sep 17(91):51563. Epub 2014 Sep 17.

ARC Centre of Excellence in Vision Science; John Curtin School of Medical Research, Australian National University; ANU Medical School, Australian National University;

Diseases of the retina are difficult to treat as the retina lies deep within the eye. Invasive methods of drug delivery are often needed to treat these diseases. Chronic retinal diseases such as retinal oedema or neovascularization usually require multiple intraocular injections to effectively treat the condition. However, the risks associated with these injections increase with repeated delivery of the drug. Therefore, alternative delivery methods need to be established in order to minimize the risks of reinjection. Several other investigations have developed methods to deliver drugs over extended time, through materials capable of releasing chemicals slowly into the eye. In this investigation, we outline the use of Elvax 40W, a copolymer resin, to act as a vehicle for drug delivery to the adult rat retina. The resin is made and loaded with the drug. The drug-resin complex is then implanted into the vitreous cavity, where it will slowly release the drug over time. This method was tested using 2-amino-4-phosphonobutyrate (APB), a glutamate analogue that blocks the light response of the retina. It was demonstrated that the APB was slowly released from the resin, and was able to block the retinal response by 7 days after implantation. This indicates that slow-release drug delivery using this copolymer resin is effective for treating the retina, and could be used therapeutically with further testing.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3791/51563DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4828104PMC
September 2014

Saffron and retina: neuroprotection and pharmacokinetics.

Vis Neurosci 2014 Sep 12;31(4-5):355-61. Epub 2014 May 12.

Dipartimento di Scienze Otorinolaringoiatriche e Oftalmologiche,University La Cattolica del Sacro Cuore,Roma,Italy.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a retinal neurodegenerative disease whose development and progression are the results of a complex interaction between genetic and environmental risk factors. Both oxidative stress and chronic inflammation play a significant role in the pathogenesis of AMD. Experimental studies in rats with light-induced photoreceptors degeneration demonstrated that saffron may protect photoreceptor from retinal stress, preserving both morphology and function and probably acting as a regulator of programmed cell death, in addition to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Recently, a randomized clinical trial showed that in patients with early AMD, dietary supplementation with saffron was able to improve significantly the retinal flicker sensitivity suggesting neuroprotective effect of the compound. Here, we examine the progress of saffron dietary supplementation both in animal model and AMD patients, and discuss the potential and safety for using dietary saffron to treat retinal degeneration.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0952523814000108DOI Listing
September 2014

Functional effect of Saffron supplementation and risk genotypes in early age-related macular degeneration: a preliminary report.

J Transl Med 2013 Sep 25;11:228. Epub 2013 Sep 25.

Dipartimento di Scienze Otorinolaringoiatriche e Oftalmologiche, Universita' Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Lgo F, Vito 1, 00168 Roma, Italy.

Background: To determine whether the functional effects of oral supplementation with Saffron, a natural compound that proved to be neuroprotective in early age-related macular degeneration, are influenced by complement factor H (CFH) and age-related maculopathy susceptibility 2 (ARMS2) risk genotypes.

Methods: Thirty-three early AMD patients, screened for CFH (rs1061170) and ARMS2 (rs10490924) polymorphisms and receiving Saffron oral supplementation (20 mg/day) over an average period of treatment of 11 months (range, 6-12), were longitudinally evaluated by clinical examination and focal electroretinogram (fERG)-derived macular (18°) flicker sensitivity estimate. fERG amplitude and macular sensitivity, the reciprocal value of the estimated fERG amplitude threshold, were the main outcome measures.

Results: After three months of supplementation, mean fERG amplitude and fERG sensitivity improved significantly when compared to baseline values (p < 0.01). These changes were stable throughout the follow-up period. No significant differences in clinical and fERG improvements were observed across different CFH or ARMS2 genotypes.

Conclusions: The present results indicate that the functional effect of Saffron supplementation in individual AMD patients is not related to the major risk genotypes of disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1479-5876-11-228DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3850693PMC
September 2013

A novel, non-canonical splice variant of the Ikaros gene is aberrantly expressed in B-cell lymphoproliferative disorders.

PLoS One 2013 9;8(7):e68080. Epub 2013 Jul 9.

Department of Biotechnological and Applied Clinical Sciences, University of L'Aquila, L'Aquila, Italy.

The Ikaros gene encodes a Krüppel-like zinc-finger transcription factor involved in hematopoiesis regulation. Ikaros has been established as one of the most clinically relevant tumor suppressors in several hematological malignancies. In fact, expression of dominant negative Ikaros isoforms is associated with adult B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, myelodysplastic syndrome, acute myeloid leukemia and adult and juvenile chronic myeloid leukemia. Here, we report the isolation of a novel, non-canonical Ikaros splice variant, called Ikaros 11 (Ik11). Ik11 is structurally related to known dominant negative Ikaros isoforms, due to the lack of a functional DNA-binding domain. Interestingly, Ik11 is the first Ikaros splice variant missing the transcriptional activation domain. Indeed, we demonstrated that Ik11 works as a dominant negative protein, being able to dimerize with Ikaros DNA-binding isoforms and inhibit their functions, at least in part by retaining them in the cytoplasm. Notably, we demonstrated that Ik11 is the first dominant negative Ikaros isoform to be aberrantly expressed in B-cell lymphoproliferative disorders, such as chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Aberrant expression of Ik11 interferes with both proliferation and apoptotic pathways, providing a mechanism for Ik11 involvement in tumor pathogenesis. Thus, Ik11 could represent a novel marker for B-cell lymphoproliferative disorders.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0068080PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3706598PMC
February 2014

A polymer optoelectronic interface restores light sensitivity in blind rat retinas.

Nat Photonics 2013 May;7(5):400-406

Department of Neuroscience and Brain Technologies, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Genova, Italy ; Department of Experimental Medicine, University of Genova, Genova, Italy.

Interfacing organic electronics with biological substrates offers new possibilities for biotechnology due to the beneficial properties exhibited by organic conducting polymers. These polymers have been used for cellular interfaces in several fashions, including cellular scaffolds, neural probes, biosensors and actuators for drug release. Recently, an organic photovoltaic blend has been exploited for neuronal stimulation via a photo-excitation process. Here, we document the use of a single-component organic film of poly(3-hexylthiophene) (P3HT) to trigger neuronal firing upon illumination. Moreover, we demonstrate that this bio-organic interface restored light sensitivity in explants of rat retinas with light-induced photoreceptor degeneration. These findings suggest that all-organic devices may play an important future role in sub-retinal prosthetic implants.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nphoton.2013.34DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4855023PMC
May 2013

Bright light exposure reduces TH-positive dopamine neurons: implications of light pollution in Parkinson's disease epidemiology.

Sci Rep 2013 ;3:1395

Biotechnological and Applied Clinical Sciences Department, University of L'Aquila, 67100 L'Aquila, Italy.

This study explores the effect of continuous exposure to bright light on neuromelanin formation and dopamine neuron survival in the substantia nigra. Twenty-one days after birth, Sprague-Dawley albino rats were divided into groups and raised under different conditions of light exposure. At the end of the irradiation period, rats were sacrificed and assayed for neuromelanin formation and number of tyrosine hydroxylase (TH)-positive neurons in the substantia nigra. The rats exposed to bright light for 20 days or 90 days showed a relatively greater number of neuromelanin-positive neurons. Surprisingly, TH-positive neurons decreased progressively in the substantia nigra reaching a significant 29% reduction after 90 days of continuous bright light exposure. This decrease was paralleled by a diminution of dopamine and its metabolite in the striatum. Remarkably, in preliminary analysis that accounted for population density, the age and race adjusted Parkinson's disease prevalence significantly correlated with average satellite-observed sky light pollution.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep01395DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3589725PMC
August 2013

Influence of saffron supplementation on retinal flicker sensitivity in early age-related macular degeneration.

Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2010 Dec 4;51(12):6118-24. Epub 2010 Aug 4.

Dipartimento di Scienze Oftalmologiche e Otorinolaringologiche, Università Cattolica del S. Cuore, Rome, Italy.

Purpose: To evaluate the functional effect of short-term supplementation of saffron, a spice containing the antioxidant carotenoids crocin and crocetin, in early age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Methods: Twenty-five patients with AMD were randomly assigned to oral saffron 20 mg/d or placebo supplementation over a 3-month period and then reverted to placebo or saffron for a further 3 months. Focal electroretinograms (fERGs) and clinical findings were recorded at baseline and after 3 months of saffron or placebo supplementation. fERGs were recorded in response to a sinusoidally modulated (41 Hz), uniform field presented to the macular region (18°) at different modulations between 16.5% and 93.5%. Main outcome measures were fERG amplitude (in microvolts), phase (in degrees), and modulation thresholds.

Results: After saffron, patients' fERGs were increased in amplitude, compared with either baseline or values found after placebo supplementation (mean change after saffron, 0.25 log μV; mean change after placebo, -0.003 log μV; P < 0.01). fERG thresholds were decreased after saffron supplementation but not placebo, compared with baseline (mean change after saffron, -0.26 log units; mean change after placebo, 0.0003 log units).

Conclusions: The results indicate that short-term saffron supplementation improves retinal flicker sensitivity in early AMD. Although the results must be further replicated and the clinical significance is yet to be evaluated, they provide important clues that nutritional carotenoids may affect AMD in novel and unexpected ways, possibly beyond their antioxidant properties. (ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00951288.).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1167/iovs.09-4995DOI Listing
December 2010

Saffron supplement maintains morphology and function after exposure to damaging light in mammalian retina.

Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2008 Mar;49(3):1254-61

Department of Science and Biomedical Technology, University of L'Aquila, L'Aquila, Italy.

Purpose: To test whether the saffron extract (Crocus sativus L.) given as a dietary supplement counteracts the effects of continuous light exposure in the albino rat retina.

Methods: Three experimental groups of Sprague-Dawley rats were used. Experimental animals were prefed either saffron or beta-carotene (1 mg extract/kg/d) before they were exposed to bright continuous light (BCL) for 24 hours. Flash electroretinograms (fERGs) were recorded in control and treated rats the day before and 1 week after light exposure. At the end of the second recording session, the animals were killed and the retinas were quickly removed, fixed, cryosectioned, and labeled so that the thickness of the outer nuclear layer (ONL) could be analyzed. Changes in protein level and cellular localization of fibroblast growth factor (FGF)2 were determined by Western blot analysis and retinal immunohistochemistry, respectively. In a second series of experiments, rats were killed at the end of light exposure, and the amount of apoptotic figures in the ONL was assessed by terminal transferase-mediated deoxyuridine triphosphate (d-UTP)-biotin nick-end labeling (TUNEL). BCL induced DNA fragmentation, characteristic of dying cells, almost exclusively in the photoreceptor layer. The rate of photoreceptor death induced by BCL is expressed as the frequency of TUNEL-positive profiles per millimeter.

Results: The photoreceptor layer was largely preserved in saffron-treated animals because it was the fERG response. In addition, the rate of photoreceptor death induced by BCL appeared drastically reduced in treated animals. In beta-carotene prefeeding experiments, morphologic analysis showed preservation of the ONL similar to that obtained with saffron prefeeding, whereas the fERG response was unrecordable. Western blot analysis showed that exposure to light induced a strong upregulation of FGF2 in control and beta-carotene-treated rats, but s no change was noted in saffron-treated rats.

Conclusions: These results show that saffron may protect photoreceptors from retinal stress, maintaining both morphology and function and probably acting as a regulator of programmed cell death.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1167/iovs.07-0438DOI Listing
March 2008

Gene expression and protein localization of calmodulin-dependent phosphodiesterase during ontogenesis of chick retina.

J Neurosci Res 2008 Apr;86(5):1017-23

Dipartimento di Biologia, Università di Genova, Genova, Italy.

Calmodulin-dependent phosphodiesterase (PDE1) is a key enzyme in cyclic nucleotides metabolism. We studied its gene expression and protein localization during retinal development in chick embryos. Western blot and densitometric analysis demonstrated that the expression of the three isoforms changed during development. PDE1A was highly expressed at the early stages and decreased as development proceeded. PDE1B expression remained relatively low and constant over time. PDE1C showed a prominent increase (13-fold) between embryonic day (E) 7 and E13, followed by a moderate increase between E13 and postnatal day (P) 1. The presence of the enzyme in the different retinal locations was strongly modulated by development. PDE1A immunostaining was first detected at the ganglion cell level (E7), then in the outer retina (E15-E21). At P5, the immunostaining was confined in the optic fiber layer. Isoform C immunolocalization followed the same inner-outer pattern as isoform A. At 5 days posthatching (P5), the immunoreactivity was restricted, as well as for the isoform A, in the optic fiber layer. The isoform B immunolabelling was low and evenly distributed across the retina at all stages. The different developmental profiles of PDE1A, PDE1B, and PDE1C induced a temporal modulation in cyclic nucleotides concentration, suggesting specific roles of this enzyme in the morphofunctional development of retinal circuitry.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jnr.21570DOI Listing
April 2008

Long-term dark rearing induces permanent reorganization in retinal circuitry.

Biochem Biophys Res Commun 2008 Jan 20;365(2):349-54. Epub 2007 Nov 20.

Dipartimento di Medicina Sperimentale, Università di L'Aquila, via Vetoio, Coppito 2, L'Aquila 67100, Italy.

Recent data challenged the assumption that light has little effect on retina development. Here, we report evidence that dark rearing permanently changes the synaptic input to GCs. A reduced spontaneous postsynaptic currents (SPSCs) frequency was found in retinal GCs from rats born and raised in the dark for three months. Glutamate antagonists (CNQX and AP-5) reversibly reduced SPSCs frequency in control and dark-reared (DR) retinae. The GABA antagonist picrotoxin (PTX) reduced SPSCs frequency in control retinas, but increased SPSCs frequency in DR, mainly by presynaptic action on excitatory currents. In DR animals exposed to normal cyclic light for 3 months, SPSCs frequency remained lower then in control rats and increased following PTX, suggesting that long-term dark rearing induces permanent modifications of the retinal circuitry. Our results strongly support the idea that light stimulation plays a role in establishing normal synaptic input to GCs.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbrc.2007.10.204DOI Listing
January 2008

Development and plasticity of the retina in the opossum Monodelphis domestica.

Acta Neurobiol Exp (Wars) 2006 ;66(3):179-88

Department of Molecular And Cellular Neurobiology, Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology, 3 Pasteur St., 02-093 Warsaw, Poland.

We investigated the rate of cell proliferation and death in the retina of the Monodelphis opossum during its postnatal development and the influence of early monocular enucleation on these processes. Our results show that in the opossum, as in other marsupials, the peak of the retinal cells divisions occurs postnatally and that generation of retinal cells continues till the time of eye opening (P34), except of the marginal rim, where it continued till P60. Ganglion and amacrine cells are generated between postnatal days (P) P4 and P9, while bipolar cells and photoreceptors are generated simultaneously between P14 and P25. The peak of ganglion cell death as detected by the TUNEL method occurs around P14-19 in the center of retina. The second peak of apoptosis appears in the inner nuclear layer (INL) at P19-25. Gliogenesis takes place between P25 and P34. We also found that monocular enucleation performed during the early period of retinal development (P0-P7) did not influence proliferation, developmental apoptosis or other developmental processes in the retina of the remaining eye.
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January 2007

Gene expression and protein localization of calmodulin-dependent phosphodiesterase in adult rat retina.

J Neurosci Res 2006 Oct;84(5):1020-6

Dipartimento di Biologia di Base e Applicata, Università di l'Aquila, Coppito, Italy.

Calcium calmodulin-dependent cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterase (PDE1) was identified in crude extract and immunolabeled sections of rat retina. Both cAMP and cGMP PDE activities were stimulated by calcium-calmodulin (4.7-fold and 2.3-fold, respectively). To characterize PDE1 isoforms in retinal cells further, we used antibodies that specifically recognize PDE1 gene products. PDE1B antibody stained a band at molecular mass of 63 kDa whereas PDE1C antibody recognized two bands at 74- and 70-kDa molecular masses. Two PDE1A antibodies (against N-terminal and C-terminal peptides) detected a band at 79 kDa never described before. Immunohistochemical analysis showed a distribution of PDE1A in the outer retina with a bright fluorescence in the outer segments of photoreceptors. PDE1B is uniformly distributed across the retina. PDE1C is confined mainly to the inner retina, with a precise localization in the inner nuclear layer. Immunostaining with choline acetyltransferase antibody indicates localization in cholinergic amacrine cell. The present data provide evidence of expression of PDE1 isoforms in mammalian retina with a complementary distribution of PDE1A and PDE1C, suggesting different roles in retinal function.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jnr.21009DOI Listing
October 2006

Long-term treatment of the developing retina with the metabotropic glutamate agonist APB induces long-term changes in the stratification of retinal ganglion cell dendrites.

Dev Neurosci 2004 ;26(5-6):396-405

Dipartimento DIBISAA, Università di Genova, Vle. Benedetto XV, Genova, Italy.

The gradual restriction of initially multistratified retinal ganglion cell (RGC) dendrites into ON and OFF sublaminae of the inner plexiform layer (IPL) can be effectively blocked by treating the developing retina with 2-amino-4-phosphonobutyrate (APB), the metabotropic glutamate agonist, or by light deprivation. Previous studies have focused on the short-term consequences of such manipulations, so the long-term effects of arresting dendritic stratification on the structural development of RGCs are as yet unknown. In the present study, we have addressed this issue by performing a morphological analysis of alpha RGCs labeled by retrograde transport of horseradish peroxidase injected into the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus of adult cats that received monocular injections of APB from postnatal (P) day 2 until P30. A large proportion of the alpha cells in the APB-treated eye (44%) were found to have multistratified dendrites that terminated in both the ON and OFF sublaminae of the IPL. The dendritic arborization pattern in the sublaminae of the IPL of these cells was asymmetric, showing a variety of forms. Immunolabeling of retinal cross-sections showed that mGLUR6 receptors appeared normal in density and location, while qualitative observation suggested an increase in the axonal arborization of rod bipolar cells. These findings indicate that long-term treatment of the neonatal retina with APB induces a long- lasting structural reorganization in retinal circuitry that most likely accounts for some of the previously described changes in the functional properties of RGCs.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1159/000082282DOI Listing
July 2005

Time course of neurotrophic factor upregulation and retinal protection against light-induced damage after optic nerve section.

Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2005 May;46(5):1748-54

CNS Stability and Degeneration Group, Research School of Biological Sciences, The Australian National University, Canberra City, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.

Purpose: To assess neurotrophic factor upregulation in the retina after damage to the optic nerve and relate that regulation to changes in photoreceptor stability and function.

Methods: Retinas of adult pigmented (Long-Evans) rats were examined at successive times (1-60 days) after unilateral optic nerve section. The distribution and expression of ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) and basic fibroblast growth factor (FGF-2) and their receptor elements FGFR1 and CNTFRalpha were studied with immunohistochemistry and Western blot analysis. FGF-2 and CNTF mRNA levels were also assessed, with semiquantitative reverse transcription-PCR. Levels and localization of the intracellular signaling molecule ERK and its activated, phosphorylated form pERK, were examined by immunohistochemistry. To assess the correlation between neurotrophic factor levels and their protective effect against light damage, albino (Sprague-Dawley) rats were exposed to bright continuous light (1000 lux) for 24 or 48 hours at successive times after nerve section. The TUNEL technique was used to visualize neuronal cell death in the retina.

Results: CNTF upregulation was detected 1 week after optic nerve section, peaked at 2 weeks, and fell to control levels at 4 weeks. CNTF appeared first in the inner retina in the ganglion cells, then in the Muller cells in which it became prominent at the outer limiting membrane (OLM) and in the outer segment (OS) region of photoreceptors. FGF-2 upregulation became prominent, particularly in photoreceptors, 21 to 28 days after surgery, continued to 2 months, and slowly declined thereafter. Double labeling with antibodies to ligand and the receptor showed colocalization of CNTF to its receptor at the OS region, whereas FGF-2-to-FGFR1 binding was found in the outer nuclear (ONL) and outer plexiform (OPL) layers. Optic nerve section provided a significant protective effect against light-induced damage in the first 2 weeks. There was no protection when animals were exposed to damaging light 1 month after nerve section.

Conclusions: The upregulation of CNTF 7 to 14 days after nerve section correlates with a reduction in the a-wave described previously. Colocalization of CNTF and CNTFRalpha on the outer segments suggests that CNTF acts at the photoreceptor membrane. The slower upregulation of FGF-2 correlates with a reduction of the b-wave. FGF-2/FGFR1 colocalization in the OPL suggests that this factor acts at the synaptic terminals of photoreceptors, modulating the release of neurotransmitters. The time course of pERK upregulation suggests that the successive upregulation of CNTF and FGF-2 activates the ERK pathway. Based on the time course of protection against bright continuous light, it seems that CNTF plays a major role in this effect, and FGF-2 has a less important role in the protection against light-induced damage.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1167/iovs.04-0657DOI Listing
May 2005

Differential modulation of interleukin-6 expression by interleukin-1beta in neuronal and glial cultures.

Eur Cytokine Netw 2003 Apr-Jun;14(2):97-102

Istituto Trapianti díOrgano e Immunocitologia, CNR, L'Aquila, Italy.

We analysed the specific effects of IL-1beta immunoneutralization on the expression of IL-6 in different pure cultures of neurones and glia after both experimental subliminal hypoxia and recovery. Whereas the IL-1beta-deprivation signal induced a decrease in IL-6 expression and release of normoxic neurones, it provoked an increase in IL-6 protein in hypoxic neurones. Moreover, the direct correlation between IL-1beta and IL-6, observed in normal and recovering neuronal cultures, was reversed in hypoxic conditions. These reversals were not observed in glial cells, in which IL-1beta immunosuppression led to a decrease in IL-6 under all conditions considered. In conclusion, the IL-1beta modulates IL-6 in different ways according to the ambient physiological or pathological conditions, and also acts via different mechanisms, depending on the cellular phenotype.
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April 2004