A systematic comparison of optogenetic approaches to visual restoration
Gilhooley MJ., Lindner M., Palumaa T., Hughes S., Peirson SN., Hankins MW.
During inherited retinal degenerations (IRDs), vision is lost due to photoreceptor cell death; however, a range of optogenetic tools have been shown to restore light responses in animal models. Restored response characteristics vary between tools and the neuronal cell population to which they are delivered: the interplay between these is complex, but targeting upstream neurons (such as retinal bipolar cells) may provide functional benefit by retaining intraretinal signal processing. In this study, our aim was to compare two optogenetic tools: mammalian melanopsin (hOPN4) and microbial red-shifted channelrhodopsin (ReaChR) expressed within two subpopulations of surviving cells in a degenerate retina. Intravitreal adeno-associated viral vectors and mouse models utilising the Cre/lox system restricted expression to populations dominated by bipolar cells or retinal ganglion cells and was compared with non-targeted delivery using the chicken beta actin (CBA) promoter. In summary, we found bipolar-targeted optogenetic tools produced faster kinetics and flatter intensity-response relationships compared with non-targeted or retinal-ganglion-cell-targeted hOPN4. Hence, optogenetic tools of both mammalian and microbial origins show advantages when targeted to bipolar cells. This demonstrates the advantage of bipolar-cell-targeted optogenetics for vision restoration in IRDs. We therefore developed a bipolar-cell-specific gene delivery system employing a compressed promoter with the potential for clinical translation.