Investigating a C1QTNF5 mutation associated with macular degeneration
C1QTNF5 is a 25kDa short chain collagen of unknown function which is mutated in late-onset retinal macular degeneration (L-ORMD). L-ORMD is an autosomal dominant disease characterised by sub-retinal pigment epithelial deposits leading to photoreceptor death and visual loss and shows several similarities to age-related macular degeneration (AMD). A Tyr402His polymorphism in complement factor H (CFH), a regulatory protein in the innate immune system, has been associated with increased risk of AMD. C1QTNF5 and CFH are both expressed and secreted by the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) which supports photoreceptors and is responsible for phagocytosis of shed rod photoreceptor outer segments (ROS). The properties of the normal C1QTNF5 and disease-associated Ser163Arg mutation were examined in detail, including protein characterisation, cellular processing and function. Recombinant wild type and mutant C1QTNF5 were produced and their multimerisation and solubility functions compared. Both proteins were found to be soluble and to form similar multimeric species which were resistant to reducing conditions, as seen in other short chain collagens. Due to the similarities between LORMD and AMD, a proposed interaction between C1QTNF5 and CFH was investigated. CFH is composed of 20 short consensus repeats (SCR) and interactions were confirmed between C1QTNF5 and both CFH and SCR modules 7-8 and 19-20. CFH showed a greater affinity for mutant C1QTNF5 compared with wild type on the basis of surface plasmon resonance assays. Stably transfected RPE-derived cell lines were created which expressed either wild type or mutant C1QTNF5. Both proteins were found to be secreted and showed similar cellular processing with no evidence of aggregation or retention of the mutant protein within the endoplasmic reticulum. In order to investigate C1QTNF5 function, phagocytosis of ROS by the stably transfected cell lines was carried out. Cells expressing wild type C1QTNF5 showed greater ROS phagocytosis compared with mutant C1QTNF5-expressing or untransfected cells. Addition of anti-C1QTNF5 antibody increased ROS phagocytosis further. In summary, it is proposed that wild type and mutant C1QTNF5 are secreted by the RPE where they interact with CFH. C1QTNF5 is also shown to have a role in ROS phagocytosis, with mutation in C1QTNF5 affecting phagocytosis efficiency, which may contribute to sub-RPE deposit formation. The results suggest that CFH may also be involved in this process, suggesting a common pathogenic pathway between L-ORMD and AMD.