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Molecular genetic basis for fluoroquinolone-induced retinal degeneration in cats

Ramirez, Christina J.a; Minch, Jonathan D.a; Gay, John M.a; Lahmers, Sunshine M.a; Guerra, Dan J.b; Haldorson, Gary J.c; Schneider, Terria; Mealey, Katrina L.a

doi: 10.1097/FPC.0b013e3283425f44
Original Articles

Objectives Distribution of fluoroquinolones to the retina is normally restricted by ABCG2 at the blood–retinal barrier. As the cat develops a species-specific adverse reaction to photoreactive fluoroquinolones, our goal was to investigate ABCG2 as a candidate gene for fluoroquinolone-induced retinal degeneration and blindness in cats.

Methods Feline ABCG2 was sequenced and the consensus amino acid sequence was compared with that of 10 other mammalian species. Expression of ABCG2 in feline retina was assessed by immunoblot. cDNA constructs for feline and human ABCG2 were constructed in a pcDNA3 expression vector and expressed in HEK-293 cells, and ABCG2 expression was analyzed by western blot and immunofluorescence. Mitoxantrone and BODIPY–prazosin efflux measured by flow cytometry and a phototoxicity assay were used to assess feline and human ABCG2 function.

Results Four feline-specific (compared with 10 other mammalian species) amino acid changes in conserved regions of ABCG2 were identified. Expression of ABCG2 on plasma membranes was confirmed in feline retina and in cells transfected with human and feline ABCG2, although some intracellular expression of feline ABCG2 was detected by immunofluorescence. Function of feline ABCG2, compared with human ABCG2, was found to be deficient as determined by flow cytometric measurement of mitoxantrone and BODIPY-prazosin efflux and enrofloxacin-induced phototoxicity assays.

Conclusion Feline-specific amino acid changes in ABCG2 cause a functional defect of the transport protein in cats. This functional defect may be owing, in part, to defective cellular localization of feline ABCG2. Regardless, dysfunction of ABCG2 at the blood–retinal barrier likely results in accumulation of photoreactive fluoroquinolones in feline retina. Exposure of the retina to light would then generate reactive oxygen species that would cause the characteristic retinal degeneration and blindness documented in some cats receiving high doses of some fluoroquinolones. Pharmacological inhibition of ABCG2 in other species might result in retinal damage if fluoroquinolones are concurrently administered.

aDepartments of Veterinary Clinical Sciences

bVeterinary Comparative Anatomy, Physiology and Pharmacology

cVeterinary Microbiology and Pathology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington, USA

Correspondence to Katrina L. Mealey, DVM, PhD, Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-6610, USA Tel: +1 001 509 335 2988; fax: +1 001 509 335 0880; e-mail:

Received June 7, 2010

Accepted November 8, 2010

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.