Duplication of the TBK1 gene is associated with 1–2% of normal tension glaucoma, a common cause of vision loss and blindness that occurs without grossly abnormal intraocular pressure. We generated a transgenic mouse that has one copy of the human TBK1 gene (native promoter and gene structure) incorporated into the mouse genome (Tg-TBK1). Expression of the TBK1 transgene in the retinae of these mice was demonstrated by real-time PCR. Using immunohistochemistry TBK1 protein was predominantly localized to the ganglion cell layer of the retina, the cell type most affected by glaucoma. More intense TBK1 labelling was detected in the retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) of Tg-TBK1 mice than in wild-type littermates. Tg-TBK1 mice exhibit the cardinal sign of glaucoma, a progressive loss of RGCs. Hemizygous Tg-TBK1 mice (with one TBK1 transgene per genome) had a 13% loss of RGCs by 18 months of age (P = 1.5 × 10−8). Homozygous Tg-TBK1 mice had 7.6% fewer RGCs than hemizygous Tg-TBK1 mice and 20% fewer RGCs than wild-type mice (P = 1.9 × 10−5) at 6 months of age. No difference in intraocular pressures was detected between Tg-TBK1 mice and wild-type littermates as they aged (P > 0.05). Tg-TBK1 mice with extra doses of the TBK1 gene recapitulate the phenotype of normal tension glaucoma in human patients with a TBK1 gene duplication. Together, these studies confirm the pathogenicity of the TBK1 gene duplication in human glaucoma and suggest that excess production of TBK1 kinase may have a role in the pathology of glaucoma.

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