ERK1/2 activation is a therapeutic target in age-related macular degeneration

Sami Dridi, Yoshio Hirano, Valeria Tarallo, Younghee Kim, Benjamin J. Fowler, Balamurali K. Ambati, Sasha Bogdanovich, Vince A. Chiodo, William W. Hauswirth, Jennifer F. Kugel, James A. Goodrich, Steven L. Ponicsan, David R. Hinton, Mark E. Kleinman, Judit Z. Baffi, Bradley D. Gelfand, Jayakrishna Ambati*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Deficient expression of the RNase III DICER1, which leads to the accumulation of cytotoxic Alu RNA, has been implicated in degeneration of the retinal pigmented epithelium(RPE) in geographic atrophy (GA), a late stage of age-related macular degeneration that causes blindness in millions of people worldwide. Here we show increased extracellular-signal-regulated kinase (ERK) 1/2 phosphorylation in the RPE of human eyes with GA and that RPE degeneration in mouse eyes and in human cell culture induced by DICER1 depletion or Alu RNA exposure is mediated via ERK1/2 signaling. Alu RNA overexpression or DICER1 knockdown increases ERK1/2 phosphorylation in the RPE in mice and in human cell culture. Alu RNA-induced RPE degeneration in mice is rescued by intravitreous administration of PD98059, an inhibitor of the ERK1/2-activating kinase MEK1, but not by inhibitors of other MAP kinases such as p38 or JNK. These findings reveal a previously unrecognized function of ERK1/2 in the pathogenesis of GA and provide a mechanistic basis for evaluation of ERK1/2 inhibition in treatment of this disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13781-13786
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number34
StatePublished - Aug 21 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Cell death
  • Mobile elements
  • Retinal degeneration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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