Oxidative stress is a deleterious stressor associated with a plethora of disease and aging manifestations, including neurodegenerative disorders, yet very few factors and mechanisms promoting the neuroprotection of photoreceptor and other neurons against oxidative stress are known. Insufficiency of RAN-binding protein-2 (RANBP2), a large, mosaic protein with pleiotropic functions, suppresses apoptosis of photoreceptor neurons upon aging and light-elicited oxidative stress, and promotes age-dependent tumorigenesis by mechanisms that are not well understood. Here we show that, by downregulating selective partners of RANBP2, such as RAN GTPase, UBC9 and ErbB-2 (HER2; Neu), and blunting the upregulation of a set of orphan nuclear receptors and the light-dependent accumulation of ubiquitylated substrates, light-elicited oxidative stress and Ranbp2 haploinsufficiency have a selective effect on protein homeostasis in the retina. Among the nuclear orphan receptors affected by insufficiency of RANBP2, we identified an isoform of COUP-TFI (Nr2f1) as the only receptor stably co-associating in vivo with RANBP2 and distinct isoforms of UBC9. Strikingly, most changes in proteostasis caused by insufficiency of RANBP2 in the retina are not observed in the supporting tissue, the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). Instead, insufficiency of RANBP2 in the RPE prominently suppresses the light-dependent accumulation of lipophilic deposits, and it has divergent effects on the accumulation of free cholesterol and free fatty acids despite the genotype-independent increase of light-elicited oxidative stress in this tissue. Thus, the data indicate that insufficiency of RANBP2 results in the cell-type-dependent downregulation of protein and lipid homeostasis, acting on functionally interconnected pathways in response to oxidative stress. These results provide a rationale for the neuroprotection from light damage of photosensory neurons by RANBP2 insufficiency and for the identification of novel therapeutic targets and approaches promoting neuroprotection.
↵* These authors contributed equally to this work