Transgenic approaches to retinal development and function in Xenopus laevis.
ABSTRACT The African clawed frog Xenopus laevis has long been used to study the development and function of the vertebrate retina. An efficient technique for generating transgenic Xenopus embryos, the REMI procedure, has enabled the stable overexpression of transgenes in developing and mature X. laevis. In the retina, transgenes driven by retinal-specific promoters have been used to study protein trafficking, circadian rhythms, and retinal degeneration. The REMI technique is surprisingly simple, consisting of integration of plasmid DNA into permeabilized sperm nuclei, followed by transplantation of these nuclei into unfertilized eggs. Here, we describe the reagents and steps necessary for generation of transgenic embryos using the REMI reaction and discuss its applications for the study of retinal development.
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ABSTRACT: The subretinal space, which borders the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), photoreceptors, and Müller cells, is an ideal location to deliver genetic vectors, morpholino oligos, and nanopharmaceuticals. Unfortunately, materials injected into the space tend to stay localized, and degenerative changes secondary to retinal detachment limit its usefulness. Furthermore, such injection requires penetration of the sclera, RPE/choroid, or the retina itself. Here, we developed a strategy in Xenopus to utilize the continuity of the brain ventricle and optic vesicle lumen during embryogenesis as a means to access the subretinal space. Wild-type and transgenic embryos expressing green fluorescent protein under the rod-opsin promoter were used for optic vesicle and brain ventricle injections. For injection directly into the optic vesicle, embryos were laid on one side in clay troughs. For brain ventricle injections, embryos were placed standing in foxholes cored from agarose dishes. Linear arrays with each embryo positioned dorsal side toward the micromanipulator facilitated high throughput injections. Twenty-five micrometer micropipettes, which were positioned with a micromanipulator or by hand, were used to pressure inject ~1.0 nl of test solution (brilliant blue, India ink, fluorescein isothiocyanate dextran, or 0.04 µm of latex polystyrene microspheres [FluoSpheres®]). FluroSpheres® were particularly useful in confirming successful injections in living embryos. Anesthetized embryos and tadpoles were fixed in 4% paraformaldehyde and cryoprotected for frozen sections, or dehydrated in ethanol and embedded in methacrylate resin compatible with the microspheres. Direct optic vesicle injections resulted in filling of the brain ventricle, contralateral optic vesicle, and central canal. Stages 24 and 25 gave the most consistent results. However, even with experience, the success rate was only ~25%. Targeting the vesicle was even more difficult beyond stage 26 due to the flattening of the lumen. In contrast, brain ventricle injections were easier to perform and had a ~90% success rate. The most consistent results were obtained in targeting the diencephalic ventricle, which is located along the midline, and protrudes anteriorly just under the frontal ectoderm and prosencephalon. An anterior midline approach conveniently accessed the ventricle without disturbing the optic vesicles. Beyond stage 30, optic vesicle filling did not occur, presumably due to closure of the connection between the ventricular system and the optic vesicles. Securing the embryos in an upright position in the agarose foxholes allowed convenient access to the frontal cephalic region. On methacrylate sections, the RPE-neural retina interphase was intact and labeled with the microspheres. As development continued, no distortion or malformation of the orbital structures was detected. In green fluorescent protein (GFP), transgenic embryos allowed to develop to stage 41, retinal FluoSpheres® labeling and photoreceptor GFP expression could be observed through the pupil. On cryosections, it was found that the FluoSpheres® extended from the diencephalon along the embryonic optic nerve to the ventral subretinal area. GFP expression was restricted to rod photoreceptors. The microspheres were restricted to the subretinal region, except focally at the lip of the optic cup, where they were present within the retina; this was presumably due to incomplete formation of the peripheral zonulae adherens. Embryos showed normal anatomic relationships, and formation of eye and lens appeared to take place normally with lamination of the retina into its ganglion cell and the inner and outer nuclear layers. Diencephalic ventricular injection before stage 31 provides an efficient strategy to introduce molecules into the embryonic Xenopus subretinal space with minimal to the developing eye or retina.Molecular vision 01/2011; 17:2956-69. · 2.20 Impact Factor