A Rhodopsin Transport Assay by High-Content Imaging Analysis.


Department of Ophthalmology, University of Pittsburgh; McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, University of Pittsburgh; [Email]


Rhodopsin misfolding mutations lead to rod photoreceptor death that is manifested as autosomal dominant retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a progressive blinding disease that lacks effective treatment. We hypothesize that the cytotoxicity of the misfolded rhodopsin mutant can be alleviated by pharmacologically stabilizing the mutant rhodopsin protein. The P23H mutation, among the other Class II rhodopsin mutations, encodes a structurally unstable rhodopsin mutant protein that is accumulated in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), whereas the wild type rhodopsin is transported to the plasma membrane in mammalian cells. We previously performed a luminescence-based high-throughput screen (HTS) and identified a group of pharmacological chaperones that rescued the transport of the P23H rhodopsin from ER to the plasma membrane. Here, using an immunostaining method followed by a high-content imaging analysis, we quantified the mutant rhodopsin protein amount in the whole cell and on the plasma membrane. This method is informative and effective to identify true hits from false positives following HTS. Additionally, the high-content image analysis enabled us to quantify multiple parameters from a single experiment to evaluate the pharmacological properties of each compound. Using this assay, we analyzed the effect of 11 different compounds towards six RP associated rhodopsin mutants, obtaining a 2-D pharmacological profile for a quantitative and qualitative understanding about the structural stability of these rhodopsin mutants and efficacy of different compounds towards these mutants.