• DUAL FUNCTIONS OF YES-ASSOCIATED PROTEIN (YAP) IN RETINA AND RETINAL PIGMENT EPITHELIUM (RPE) IN EYE DEVELOPMENT

      Cho, Seo-Hee; Barbe, Mary F.; Goldfinger, Lawrence; Son, Young-Jin (Temple University. Libraries, 2015)
      Yes-associated protein (Yap) transcriptional co-activator, a major downstream effector of Hippo signaling pathway, controls organ size by modulating cell proliferation and apoptosis. The Hippo signaling cascade phosphorylates Yap, and this phosphorylation inhibits the nuclear retention of Yap, which is essential for cell proliferation. Thus, the loss of Hippo pathway components leads to enlarged organs through increased Yap activity in the nucleus. Our initial study showed that Yap was expressed in the developing retina and retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), suggesting Yap's tissue-specific roles during the eye development. Intriguingly, Yap proteins were localized at the apical junctions in addition to the nucleus and cytosol of the retinal progenitor cells, adding another level of regulation. To uncover the tissue- and localization-specific functions of Yap, we generated a Yap conditional knockout mouse with Rx-Cre for the ablation of the Yap gene in the developing retina and RPE. Upon deletion of Yap, the retina showed severe lamination defects with numerous folding, which is reminiscent of the polarity and adhesion loss. The RPE, a single pigmented cell layer overlying the retina, lost pigmentation and changed into a multi-layered epithelium. The marker analysis revealed that 1) in the retina, the localization of the polarity complex proteins such as Pals1, Crb1 and atypical PKC were disrupted, suggesting Yap's indispensable role in junctional stability, and 2) the level of Otx2 in RPE decreased while those of Chx10 and beta-tubulin increased, suggesting transdifferentiation of RPE into the retina. In addition, the deletion of Yap induced a decrease in proliferation and an increase in apoptosis, ultimately resulting in microphthalmia. In conclusion, our results are consistent with the model that Yap functions in the stabilization of apical proteins for maintenance of the laminar organization, determination of RPE territory, and regulation of proliferation and apoptosis during the eye development.