Butyrylcholinesterase Antisense Transfection Increases Apoptosis in Differentiating Retinal Reaggregates of the Chick Embryo

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To investigate the roles of the enzymes butyryl- and acetylcholinesterase (BChE and AChE) in retinal proliferation and differentiation, we use reaggregated spheres from retinal cells of the 6-day-old chick embryo, forming cellular and fibrous areas homologous to all layers of a normal retina. Recently, we could suppress BChE expression by transfecting these so-called retinospheroids during their proliferation period with a pSVK3 expression vector containing a 5′ fragment of the rabbit BChE gene in antisense orientation. Along with morphological changes, proliferation was significantly decreased. Here, we have studied the effect of antisense BChE suppression during the differentiation period of retinospheroids. As BChE is suppressed, the differentiation of AChE-positive cells is increased, whereas the immunoreactivities for red and green cone-specific opsins are strongly reduced. Concomitantly, the rate of apoptosis as determined by propidium iodide uptake, by increased CPP 32-like caspase expression, and by terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end-labeling and DNA fragmentation assays is roughly doubled, predominantly at the expense of degenerating photoreceptor precursors. This is further strong evidence that the proliferation marker BChE regulates an intricate balance between cell proliferation, cell differentiation, and programmed cell death in this in vitro retinal system.

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