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This article is the author's final published version in International Journal of Molecular Sciences, Volume 24, Issue 7, 2023, Article number 6716.

The published version is available at Copyright © 2023 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


LC3b (Map1lc3b) plays an essential role in canonical autophagy and is one of several components of the autophagy machinery that mediates non-canonical autophagic functions. Phagosomes are often associated with lipidated LC3b to promote phagosome maturation in a process called LC3-associated phagocytosis (LAP). Specialized phagocytes, such as mammary epithelial cells, retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells, and sertoli cells, utilize LAP for optimal degradation of phagocytosed material, including debris. In the visual system, LAP is critical to maintain retinal function, lipid homeostasis, and neuroprotection. In a mouse model of retinal lipid steatosis-mice lacking LC3b (LC3b−/−), we observed increased lipid deposition, metabolic dysregulation, and enhanced inflammation. Herein, we present a non-biased approach to determine if loss of LAP mediated processes modulate the expression of various genes related to metabolic homeostasis, lipid handling, and inflammation. A comparison of the RPE transcriptome of WT and LC3b−/− mice revealed 1533 DEGs, with ~73% upregulated and 27% downregulated. Enriched gene ontology (GO) terms included inflammatory response (upregulated DEGs), fatty acid metabolism, and vascular transport (downregulated DEGs). Gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) identified 34 pathways; 28 were upregulated (dominated by inflammation/related pathways) and 6 were downregulated (dominated by metabolic pathways). Analysis of additional gene families identified significant differences for genes in the solute carrier family, RPE signature genes, and genes with a potential role in age-related macular degeneration. These data indicate that loss of LC3b induces robust changes in the RPE transcriptome contributing to lipid dysregulation and metabolic imbalance, RPE atrophy, inflammation, and disease pathophysiology.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.