Prolactin (PRL) hormone functions as a pleiotropic cytokine with a protective role in the retina. We recently identified by transcriptome profiling that PRL is one of the most highly upregulated mRNAs in the retinas of mutant rcd1 (PDE6B) and xlpra2 (RPGR) dogs at advanced stages of photoreceptor disease. In the present study, we have identified the expression of a short PRL isoform that lacks exon 1 in canine retinas and analyzed the time-course of expression and localization of this isoform in the retinas of these two models. Using laser capture microdissection to isolate RNA from each of the retinal cellular layers, we found by qPCR that this short PRL isoform is expressed in photoreceptors of degenerating retinas. We confirmed by in situ hybridization that its expression is localized to the outer nuclear layer and begins shortly after the onset of disease at the time of peak photoreceptor cell death in both models. PRL protein was also detected only in mutant dog retinas. Our results call for further investigations into the role of this novel PRL isoform in retinal degeneration.
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