Mary D. Allen Chair in Vision Research, Doheny Eye Institute
Director, USC Postdoctoral Scholars Program
Professor, Ophthalmology and Cell and Neurobiology
Founding Chair, Department of Cell and Neurobiology (1994 - 2004)
- Molecular Neurobiology
- Gene regulation
- Genetics of inherited blindness
- Visual Arrestins
- Photoreceptor G-protein coupled receptor
- Cone phototransduction
- Knockout Mice Models
Research OverviewThe endowed Mary D. Allen (MDA) Laboratory for Vision Research, USC Eye Institute, was established in 1994 to focus on molecular and cell biology of inherited forms of blindness, including age related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa. Dr. Cheryl M. Craft and her research team investigate retinal photoreceptors in health and disease, including examining susceptibility/resistant modulators essential for maintaining sight. The NEI/NIH funded research program focuses on the mechanisms involved in cone pigment G-protein signal transduction shutoff pathways and synaptic regulation of the SNARE complex.
(1) With the identification of a superfamily of arrestin proteins (Craft, Whitmore, and Wiechmann, 1994; Craft and Whitmore, 1995), visual arrestins are critical players in cone pigment photoreceptor signaling. Arrestin1 mutations are responsible for a form of retinitis pigmentosa, known as Oguchi's Disease. Our discovering of a second visual arrestin in cones now focuses on current research with mouse models to analyze the gene structure and potential function. In parallel to basic transcriptional regulation experiments, series of genetic visual arrestin knockouts are used to examine the electrophysiological, biochemical and morphological phenotypes of the cone transduction machinery without cone opsin regulators are ongoing (Nikonov et al., 2008, Brown et al., 2010, Huang et al., 2010). Current work identified novel synaptic interacting partners of Arrestin1, including NSF, an ATPase regulating exocytosis in the photoreceptor (Huang et al., 2010). Currently, we are exploring cone dystrophy in older mice when the visual cone arrestin is knocked out and the postsynaptic pathways leading to defects in visual acuity and contrast sensitivity.(Craft and Deming, 2014, Deming et al., submitted)
(2) Dr. Craft's group works with gene regulation of the retinal knockout models using Affymetrix Gene Chip technology to examine the complex interacting networks and pathways that regulate and modulate differentiation and retinal degeneration that may be essential for photoreceptor survival (Yetemian et al., 2010; Huang et al., submitted).
(3) Dr. Craft developed a retinal yeast two-hybrid library screening technology and discovered protein partners for visual arrestins, including Als2cr4, a novel tetraspanin protein involved in ciliogenesis and protein transport in the photoreceptor and horizontal cell (Zuniga and Craft, 2010).