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The retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) resides at the back of the eye and performs functions essential for maintaining the health and integrity of adjacent retinal and vascular tissues. At present, the limited reparative capacity of mammalian RPE, which is restricted to small injuries, has hindered progress to understanding in vivo RPE regenerative processes. Here, a detailed methodology is provided to facilitate the study of in vivo RPE repair utilizing the zebrafish, a vertebrate model capable of robust tissue regeneration. This protocol describes a transgenic nitroreductase/metronidazole (NTR/MTZ)-mediated injury paradigm (rpe65a:nfsB-eGFP), which results in ablation of the central two-thirds of the RPE after 24 h treatment with MTZ, with subsequent tissue recovery. Focus is placed on RPE ablations in larval zebrafish and methods for testing the effects of pharmacological compounds on RPE regeneration are also outlined. Generation and validation of RpEGEN, a MATLAB script created to automate quantification of RPE regeneration based on pigmentation, is also discussed. Beyond active RPE repair mechanisms, this protocol can be expanded to studies of RPE degeneration and injury responses as well as the effects of RPE damage on adjacent retinal and vascular tissues, among other cellular and molecular processes. This zebrafish system holds significant promise in identifying genes, networks, and processes that drive RPE regeneration and RPE disease-related mechanisms, with the long-term goal of applying this knowledge to mammalian systems and, ultimately, toward therapeutic development.


Lyndsay L Leach, G Burch Fisher, Jeffrey M Gross. Nitroreductase/Metronidazole-Mediated Ablation and a MATLAB Platform (RpEGEN) for Studying Regeneration of the Zebrafish Retinal Pigment Epithelium. Journal of visualized experiments : JoVE. 2022 Mar 02(181)

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PMID: 35311832

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