, Volume 47, Issue 2, pp 790-810

The Ubiquitin–Proteasome System in Retinal Health and Disease

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The ubiquitin–proteasome system (UPS) is the main intracellular pathway for modulated protein turnover, playing an important role in the maintenance of cellular homeostasis. It also exerts a protein quality control through degradation of oxidized, mutant, denatured, or misfolded proteins and is involved in many biological processes where protein level regulation is necessary. This system allows the cell to modulate its protein expression pattern in response to changing physiological conditions and provides a critical protective role in health and disease. Impairments of UPS function in the central nervous system (CNS) underlie an increasing number of genetic and idiopathic diseases, many of which affect the retina. Current knowledge on the UPS composition and function in this tissue, however, is scarce and dispersed. This review focuses on UPS elements reported in the retina, including ubiquitinating and deubiquitinating enzymes (DUBs), and alternative proteasome assemblies. Known and inferred roles of protein ubiquitination, and of the related, SUMO conjugation (SUMOylation) process, in normal retinal development and adult homeostasis are addressed, including modulation of the visual cycle and response to retinal stress and injury. Additionally, the relationship between UPS dysfunction and human neurodegenerative disorders affecting the retina, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and Huntington's diseases, are dealt with, together with numerous instances of retina-specific illnesses with UPS involvement, such as retinitis pigmentosa, macular degenerations, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy (DR), and aging-related impairments. This information, though still basic and limited, constitutes a suitable framework to be expanded in incoming years and should prove orientative toward future therapy design targeting sight-affecting diseases with a UPS underlying basis.