Activation of the molecular chaperone, sigma 1 receptor, preserves cone function in a murine model of inherited retinal degeneration

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31 Scopus citations


Retinal degenerative diseases are major causes of untreatable blindness, and novel approaches to treatment are being sought actively. Here we explored the activation of a unique protein, sigma 1 receptor (Sig1R), in the treatment of PRC loss because of its multifaceted role in cellular survival. We used Pde6βrd10 (rd10) mice, which harbor a mutation in the rod-specific phosphodiesterase gene Pde6β and lose rod and cone photoreceptor cells (PRC) within the first 6 wk of life, as a model for severe retinal degeneration. Systemic administration of the high-affinity Sig1R ligand (+)-pentazocine [(+)-PTZ] to rd10 mice over several weeks led to the rescue of cone function as indicated by electroretinographic recordings using natural noise stimuli and preservation of cone cells upon spectral domain optical coherence tomography and retinal histological examination. The protective effect appears to result from the activation of Sig1R, because rd10/Sig1R-/-mice administered (+)-PTZ exhibited no cone preservation. (+)-PTZ treatment was associated with several beneficial cellular phenomena including attenuated reactive gliosis, reduced microglial activation, and decreased oxidative stress in mutant retinas. To our knowledge, this is the first report that activation of Sig1R attenuates inherited PRC loss. The findings may have far-reaching therapeutic implications for retinal neurodegenerative diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E3764-E3772
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number26
StatePublished - Jun 28 2016



  • (+)-pentazocine
  • Oxidative stress
  • Photoreceptor
  • Rd10 mouse
  • Retinal neuroprotection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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