Development of TRIB3-Based Therapy as a Gene-Independent Approach to Treat Retinal Degenerative Disorders

Trong Thuan Ung, Christopher R. Starr, Assylbek Zhylkibayev, Irina Saltykova, Marina Gorbatyuk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Inherited retinal degeneration (RD) constitutes a heterogeneous group of genetic retinal degenerative disorders. The molecular mechanisms underlying RD encompass a diverse spectrum of cellular signaling, with the unfolded protein response (UPR) identified as a common signaling pathway chronically activated in degenerating retinas. TRIB3 has been recognized as a key mediator of the PERK UPR arm, influencing various metabolic pathways, such as insulin signaling, lipid metabolism, and glucose homeostasis, by acting as an AKT pseudokinase that prevents the activation of the AKT → mTOR axis. This study aimed to develop a gene-independent approach targeting the UPR TRIB3 mediator previously tested by our group using a genetic approach in mice with RD. The goal was to validate a therapeutic approach targeting TRIB3 interactomes through the pharmacological targeting of EGFR-TRIB3 and delivering cell-penetrating peptides targeting TRIB3 → AKT. The study employed rd10 and P23H RHO mice, with afatinib treatment conducted in p15 rd10 mice through daily intraperitoneal injections. P15 P23H RHO mice received intraocular injections of cell-penetrating peptides twice at a 2-week interval. Our study revealed that both strategies successfully targeted TRIB3 interactomes, leading to an improvement in scotopic A- and B-wave ERG recordings. Additionally, the afatinib-treated mice manifested enhanced photopic ERG amplitudes accompanied by a delay in photoreceptor cell loss. The treated rd10 retinas also showed increased PDE6β and RHO staining, along with an elevation in total PDE activity in the retinas. Consequently, our study demonstrated the feasibility of a gene-independent strategy to target common signaling in degenerating retinas by employing a TRIB3-based therapeutic approach that delays retinal function and photoreceptor cell loss in two RD models.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4716
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • TRIB3
  • afatinib
  • cell-penetrating peptides
  • retinal degeneration
  • unfolded protein response


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