Many devastating inherited eye diseases result in progressive and irreversible blindness because humans cannot regenerate dying or diseased retinal neurons. In contrast, the adult zebrafish retina possesses the robust ability to spontaneously regenerate any neuronal class that is lost in a variety of different retinal damage models, including retinal puncture, chemical ablation, concentrated high temperature, and intense light treatment. Our lab extensively characterized regeneration of photoreceptors following constant intense light treatment and inner retinal neurons after intravitreal ouabain injection. In all cases, resident Müller glia re-enter the cell cycle to produce neuronal progenitors, which continue to proliferate and migrate to the proper retinal layer, where they differentiate into the deficient neurons. We characterized five different stages during regeneration of the light-damaged retina that were highlighted by specific cellular responses. We identified several differentially expressed genes at each stage of retinal regeneration by mRNA microarray analysis. Many of these genes are also critical for ocular development. To test the role of each candidate gene/protein during retinal regeneration, we needed to develop a method to conditionally limit the expression of a candidate protein only at times during regeneration of the adult retina. Morpholino oligos are widely used to study loss of function of specific proteins during the development of zebrafish, Xenopus, chick, mouse, and tumors in human xenografts. These modified oligos basepair with complementary RNA sequence to either block the splicing or translation of the target RNA. Morpholinos are stable in the cell and can eliminate or "knockdown" protein expression for three to five days. Here, we describe a method to efficiently knockdown target protein expression in the adult zebrafish retina. This method employs lissamine-tagged antisense morpholinos that are injected into the vitreous of the adult zebrafish eye. Using electrode forceps, the morpholino is then electroporated into all the cell types of the dorsal and central retina. Lissamine provides the charge on the morpholino for electroporation and can be visualized to assess the presence of the morpholino in the retinal cells. Conditional knockdown in the retina can be used to examine the role of specific proteins at different times during regeneration. Additionally, this approach can be used to study the role of specific proteins in the undamaged retina, in such processes as visual transduction and visual processing in second order neurons.
Thummel R., Bailey T.J., Hyde D.R. (2011) In vivo electroporation of morpholinos into the adult zebrafish retina.. Journal of visualized experiments : JoVE : -. doi: