Gene expression regulation in retinal pigment epithelial cells induced by viral RNA and viral/bacterial DNA

Anton Brosig, Heidrun Kuhrt, Peter Wiedemann, Leon Kohen, Andreas Bringmann, Margrit Hollborn*

*Corresponding author for this work
10 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The pathogenesis of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is associated with systemic and local inflammation. Various studies suggested that viral or bacterial infection may aggravate retinal inflammation in the aged retina. We compared the effects of synthetic viral RNA (poly(I:C)) and viral/bacterial DNA (CpG-ODN) on the expression of genes known to be involved in the development of AMD in retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells. Methods: Cultured human RPE cells were stimulated with poly(I:C; 500 µg/ml) or CpG-ODN (500 nM). Alterations in gene expression and protein secretion were determined with real-time RT-PCR and ELISA, respectively. Phosphorylation of signal transduction molecules was revealed by western blotting. Results: Poly(I:C) induced gene expression of the pattern recognition receptor TLR3, transcription factors (HIF-1α, p65/NF-κB), the angiogenic factor bFGF, inflammatory factors (IL-1β, IL-6, TNFα, MCP-1, MIP-2), and complement factors (C5, C9, CFB). Poly(I:C) also induced phosphorylation of ERK1/2 and p38 MAPK proteins, and the secretion of bFGF and TNFα from the cells. CpG-ODN induced moderate gene expression of transcription factors (p65/NF-κB, NFAT5) and complement factors (C5, C9), while it had no effect on the expression of various TLR, angiogenic factor, and inflammatory factor genes. The activities of various signal transduction pathways and transcription factors were differentially involved in mediating the poly(I:C)-induced transcriptional activation of distinct genes. Conclusions: The widespread effects of viral RNA, and the restricted effects of viral/bacterial DNA, on the gene expression pattern of RPE cells may suggest that viral RNA rather than viral/bacterial DNA induces physiologic alterations of RPE cells, which may aggravate inflammation in the aged retina. The data also suggest that selective inhibition of distinct signal transduction pathways or individual transcription factors may not be effective to inhibit viral retinal inflammation.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMolecular Vision
Pages (from-to)1000-1016
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 31.08.2015

Research Areas and Centers

  • Research Area: Luebeck Integrated Oncology Network (LION)


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