NEW PUBLICATION - Absence of MMACHC in peripheral retinal cells does not lead to an ocular phenotype in mice

A new publication from Dr. Froese's group!

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Combined methylmalonic aciduria with homocystinuria (cblC type) is a rare disease caused by mutations in the MMACHC gene. MMACHC encodes an enzyme crucial for intracellular vitamin B12 metabolism, leading to the accumulation of toxic metabolites e.g. methylmalonic acid (MMA) and homocysteine (Hcy), and secondary disturbances in folate and one-carbon metabolism when not fully functional. Patients with cblC deficiency often present in the neonatal or early childhood period with a severe multisystem pathology, which comprises a broad spectrum of treatment-resistant ophthalmological phenotypes, including retinal degeneration, impaired vision, and vascular changes. To examine the potential function of MMACHC in the retina and how its loss may impact disease, we performed gene expression studies in human and mouse, which showed that local expression of MMACHC in the retina and retinal pigment epithelium is relatively stable over time. To study whether functional MMACHC is required for retinal function and tissue integrity, we generated a transgenic mouse lacking Mmachc expression in cells of the peripheral retina. Characterization of this mouse revealed accumulation of cblC disease related metabolites, including MMA and the folate-dependent purine synthesis intermediates AICA-riboside and SAICA-riboside in the retina. Nevertheless, fundus appearance, morphology, vasculature, and cellular composition of the retina, as well as ocular function, remained normal in mice up to 6 or 12 months of age. Our data indicates that peripheral retinal neurons do not require intrinsic expression of Mmachc for survival and function and questions whether a local MMACHC deficiency is responsible for the retinal phenotypes in patients.

Elisabetta Vannoni Thäler