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1.  Interaction of retinitis pigmentosa GTPase regulator (RPGR) with RAB8A GTPase: implications for cilia dysfunction and photoreceptor degeneration 
Human Molecular Genetics  2010;19(18):3591-3598.
Defects in biogenesis or function(s) of primary cilia are associated with numerous inherited disorders (called ciliopathies) that may include retinal degeneration phenotype. The cilia-expressed gene RPGR (retinitis pigmentosa GTPase regulator) is mutated in patients with X-linked retinitis pigmentosa (XLRP) and encodes multiple protein isoforms with a common N-terminal domain homologous to regulator of chromosome condensation 1 (RCC1), a guanine nucleotide exchange factor (GEF) for Ran GTPase. RPGR interacts with several ciliopathy proteins, such as RPGRIP1L and CEP290; however, its physiological role in cilia-associated functions has not been delineated. Here, we report that RPGR interacts with the small GTPase RAB8A, which participates in cilia biogenesis and maintenance. We show that RPGR primarily associates with the GDP-bound form of RAB8A and stimulates GDP/GTP nucleotide exchange. Disease-causing mutations in RPGR diminish its interaction with RAB8A and reduce the GEF activity. Depletion of RPGR in hTERT-RPE1 cells interferes with ciliary localization of RAB8A and results in shorter primary cilia. Our data suggest that RPGR modulates intracellular localization and function of RAB8A. We propose that perturbation of RPGR–RAB8A interaction, at least in part, underlies the pathogenesis of photoreceptor degeneration in XLRP caused by RPGR mutations.
PMCID: PMC2928130  PMID: 20631154
2.  Structural and functional plasticity of subcellular tethering, targeting and processing of RPGRIP1 by RPGR isoforms 
Biology Open  2011;1(2):140-160.
Mutations affecting the retinitis pigmentosa GTPase regulator-interacting protein 1 (RPGRIP1) interactome cause syndromic retinal dystrophies. RPGRIP1 interacts with the retinitis pigmentosa GTPase regulator (RPGR) through a domain homologous to RCC1 (RHD), a nucleotide exchange factor of Ran GTPase. However, functional relationships between RPGR and RPGRIP1 and their subcellular roles are lacking. We show by molecular modeling and analyses of RPGR disease-mutations that the RPGR-interacting domain (RID) of RPGRIP1 embraces multivalently the shared RHD of RPGR1–19 and RPGRORF15 isoforms and the mutations are non-overlapping with the interface found between RCC1 and Ran GTPase. RPGR disease-mutations grouped into six classes based on their structural locations and differential impairment with RPGRIP1 interaction. RPGRIP1α1 expression alone causes its profuse self-aggregation, an effect suppressed by co-expression of either RPGR isoform before and after RPGRIP1α1 self-aggregation ensue. RPGR1–19 localizes to the endoplasmic reticulum, whereas RPGRORF15 presents cytosolic distribution and they determine uniquely the subcellular co-localization of RPGRIP1α1. Disease mutations in RPGR1–19, RPGRORF15, or RID of RPGRIP1α1, singly or in combination, exert distinct effects on the subcellular targeting, co-localization or tethering of RPGRIP1α1 with RPGR1–19 or RPGRORF15 in kidney, photoreceptor and hepatocyte cell lines. Additionally, RPGRORF15, but not RPGR1–19, protects the RID of RPGRIP1α1 from limited proteolysis. These studies define RPGR- and cell-type-dependent targeting pathways with structural and functional plasticity modulating the expression of mutations in RPGR and RPGRIP1. Further, RPGR isoforms distinctively determine the subcellular targeting of RPGRIP1α1, with deficits in RPGRORF15-dependent intracellular localization of RPGRIP1α1 contributing to pathomechanisms shared by etiologically distinct syndromic retinal dystrophies.
PMCID: PMC3507198  PMID: 23213406
protein targeting; RPGRIP1; RPGR; protein aggregation; degeneration; photoreceptor; kidney cells
3.  Novel transglutaminase-like peptidase and C2 domains elucidate the structure, biogenesis and evolution of the ciliary compartment 
Cell Cycle  2012;11(20):3861-3875.
In addition to their role in motility, eukaryotic cilia serve as a distinct compartment for signal transduction and regulatory sequestration of biomolecules. Recent genetic and biochemical studies have revealed an extraordinary diversity of protein complexes involved in the biogenesis of cilia during each cell cycle. Mutations in components of these complexes are at the heart of human ciliopathies such as Nephronophthisis (NPHP), Meckel-Gruber syndrome (MKS), Bardet-Biedl syndrome (BBS) and Joubert syndrome (JBTS). Despite intense studies, proteins in some of these complexes, such as the NPHP1-4-8 and the MKS, remain poorly understood. Using a combination of computational analyses we studied these complexes to identify novel domains in them which might throw new light on their functions and evolutionary origins. First, we identified both catalytically active and inactive versions of transglutaminase-like (TGL) peptidase domains in key ciliary/centrosomal proteins CC2D2A/MKS6, CC2D2B, CEP76 and CCDC135. These ciliary TGL domains appear to have originated from prokaryotic TGL domains that act as peptidases, either in a prokaryotic protein degradation system with the MoxR AAA+ ATPase, the precursor of eukaryotic dyneins and midasins, or in a peptide-ligase system with an ATP-grasp enzyme comparable to tubulin-modifying TTL proteins. We suggest that active ciliary TGL proteins are part of a cilia-specific peptidase system that might remove tubulin modifications or cleave cilia- localized proteins, while the inactive versions are likely to bind peptides and mediate key interactions during ciliogenesis. Second, we observe a vast radiation of C2 domains, which are key membrane-localization modules, in multiple ciliary proteins, including those from the NPHP1-4-8 and the MKS complexes, such as CC2D2A/MKS6, RPGRIP1, RPGRIP1L, NPHP1, NPHP4, C2CD3, AHI1/Jouberin and CEP76, most of which can be traced back to the last eukaryotic ancestor. Identification of these TGL and C2 domains aid in the proper reconstruction of the Y-shaped linkers, which are key structures in the transitional zone of cilia, by allowing precise prediction of the multiple membrane-contacting and protein-protein interaction sites in these structures. These findings help decipher key events in the evolutionary separation of the ciliary and nuclear compartments in course of the emergence of the eukaryotic cell.
PMCID: PMC3495828  PMID: 22983010
ciliogenesis; transglutaminase-like; membrane; tubulin-tyrosine ligase; C2; transition zone; Y-shaped linkers; evolution; origin of eukaryotes; ciliopathy
4.  RPGRIP1 is essential for normal rod photoreceptor outer segment elaboration and morphogenesis 
Human Molecular Genetics  2009;18(22):4329-4339.
The function of the retinitis pigmentosa GTPase regulator interacting protein 1 (RPGRIP1) gene is currently not known. However, mutations within the gene lead to Leber Congenital Amaurosis and autosomal recessive retinitis pigmentosa in human patients. In a previously described knockout mouse model of the long splice variant of Rpgrip1, herein referred to as Rpgrip1tm1Tili mice, mislocalization of key outer segment proteins and dysmorphogenesis of outer segment discs preceded subsequent photoreceptor degeneration. In this report, we describe a new mouse model carrying a splice acceptor site mutation in Rpgrip1, herein referred to as Rpgrip1nmf247 that is phenotypically distinct from Rpgrip1tm1Tili mice. Photoreceptor degeneration in homozygous Rpgrip1nmf247 mice is earlier in onset and more severe when compared with Rpgrip1tm1Tili mice. Also, ultrastructural studies reveal that whereas Rpgrip1nmf247 mutants have a normal structure and number of connecting cilia, unlike Rpgrip1tm1Tili mice, they do not elaborate rod outer segments (OS). Therefore, in addition to its role in OS disc morphogenesis, RPGRIP1 is essential for rod OS formation. Our study indicates the absence of multiple Rpgrip1 isoforms in Rpgrip1nmf247 mice, suggesting different isoforms may play different roles in photoreceptors and underscores the importance of considering splice variants when generating targeted null mutations.
PMCID: PMC2766293  PMID: 19679561
5.  Allelic Heterogeneity and Genetic Modifier Loci Contribute to Clinical Variation in Males with X-Linked Retinitis Pigmentosa Due to RPGR Mutations 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e23021.
Mutations in RPGR account for over 70% of X-linked retinitis pigmentosa (XlRP), characterized by retinal degeneration and eventual blindness. The clinical consequences of RPGR mutations are highly varied, even among individuals with the same mutation: males demonstrate a wide range of clinical severity, and female carriers may or may not be affected. This study describes the phenotypic diversity in a cohort of 98 affected males from 56 families with RPGR mutations, and demonstrates the contribution of genetic factors (i.e., allelic heterogeneity and genetic modifiers) to this diversity. Patients were categorized as grade 1 (mild), 2 (moderate) or 3 (severe) according to specific clinical criteria. Patient DNAs were genotyped for coding SNPs in 4 candidate modifier genes with products known to interact with RPGR protein: RPGRIP1, RPGRIP1L, CEP290, and IQCB1. Family-based association testing was performed using PLINK. A wide range of clinical severity was observed both between and within families. Patients with mutations in exons 1–14 were more severely affected than those with ORF15 mutations, and patients with predicted null alleles were more severely affected than those predicted to make RPGR protein. Two SNPs showed association with severe disease: the minor allele (N) of I393N in IQCB1 (p = 0.044) and the common allele (R) of R744Q in RPGRIP1L (p = 0.049). These data demonstrate that allelic heterogeneity contributes to phenotypic diversity in XlRP and suggest that this may depend on the presence or absence of RPGR protein. In addition, common variants in 2 proteins known to interact with RPGR are associated with severe disease in this cohort.
PMCID: PMC3155520  PMID: 21857984
6.  Replacement Gene Therapy with a Human RPGRIP1 Sequence Slows Photoreceptor Degeneration in a Murine Model of Leber Congenital Amaurosis 
Human Gene Therapy  2010;21(8):993-1004.
Genetic defect in RPGR-interacting protein 1 (RPGRIP1) is a known cause of Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA), a severe, inherited form of retinal degeneration. Here, Pawlyk et al. report results from studies evaluating the efficacy of AAV8-mediated replacement gene therapy in a mouse model of LCA carrying a targeted disruption of RPGRIP1.
RPGR-interacting protein-1 (RPGRIP1) is localized in the photoreceptor-connecting cilium, where it anchors the RPGR (retinitis pigmentosa GTPase regulator) protein, and its function is essential for photoreceptor maintenance. Genetic defect in RPGRIP1 is a known cause of Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA), a severe, early-onset form of retinal degeneration. We evaluated the efficacy of replacement gene therapy in a murine model of LCA carrying a targeted disruption of RPGRIP1. The replacement construct, packaged in an adeno-associated virus serotype 8 (AAV8) vector, used a rhodopsin kinase gene promoter to drive RPGRIP1 expression. Both promoter and transgene were of human origin. After subretinal delivery of the replacement gene in the mutant mice, human RPGRIP1 was expressed specifically in photoreceptors, localized correctly in the connecting cilia, and restored the normal localization of RPGR. Electroretinogram and histological examinations showed better preservation of rod and cone photoreceptor function and improved photoreceptor survival in the treated eyes. This study demonstrates the efficacy of human gene replacement therapy and validates a gene therapy design for future clinical trials in patients afflicted with this condition. Our results also have therapeutic implications for other forms of retinal degenerations attributable to a ciliary defect.
PMCID: PMC2928706  PMID: 20384479
7.  Evidence for RPGRIP1 gene as risk factor for primary open angle glaucoma 
Glaucoma is a genetically heterogeneous disorder and is the second cause of blindness worldwide owing to the progressive degeneration of retinal ganglion neurons. Very few genes causing glaucoma were identified to this date. In this study, we screened 10 candidate genes of glaucoma between the D14S261 and D14S121 markers of chromosome 14q11, a critical region previously linked to primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG). Mutation analyses of two large cohorts of patients with POAG, normal tension glaucoma (NTG) and juvenile open-angle glaucoma (JOAG), and control subjects, found only association of non-synonymous heterozygous variants of the retinitis pigmentosa GTPase regulator-interacting protein 1 (RPGRIP1) with POAG, NTG and JOAG. The 20 non-synonymous variants identified in RPGRIP1 were all distinct from variants causing photoreceptor dystrophies and were found throughout all but one domain (RPGR-interacting domain) of RPGRIP1. Among them, 14 missense variants clustered within or around the C2 domains of RPGRIP1. Yeast two-hybrid analyses of a subset of the missense mutations within the C2 domains of RPGRIP1 shows that five of them (p.R598Q, p.A635G, p.T806I, p.A837G and p.I838V) decrease the association of the C2 domains with nephrocystin-4 (NPHPH). When considering only these five confirmed C2-domain mutations, the association remains statistically significant (P=0.001). Altogether, the data support that heterozygous non-synonymous variants of RPGRIP1 may cause or increase the susceptibility to various forms of glaucoma and that among other factors, physical impairment of the interaction of RPGRIP1with different proteins may contribute to the pathogenesis of forms of glaucoma.
PMCID: PMC3060327  PMID: 21224891
glaucoma; RPGRIP1; mutation screening
8.  Mutation Analysis of 18 Nephronophthisis-associated Ciliopathy Disease Genes using a DNA Pooling and Next-Generation Sequencing Strategy 
Journal of medical genetics  2010;48(2):105-116.
Nephronophthisis-associated ciliopathies (NPHP-AC) comprise a group of autosomal recessive cystic kidney diseases that includes nephronophthisis (NPHP), Senior-Loken syndrome (SLS), Joubert syndrome (JBTS), and Meckel-Gruber syndrome (MKS). To date, causative mutations in NPHP-AC have been described for 18 different genes, rendering mutation analysis tedious and expensive. To overcome the broad genetic locus heterogeneity we devised a strategy of DNA pooling with consecutive massively parallel resequencing (MPR).
In 120 patients with severe NPHP-AC phenotypes we prepared 5 pools of genomic DNA with 24 patients each which were used as templates in order to PCR-amplify all 376 exons of 18 NPHP-AC genes (NPHP1, INVS, NPHP3, NPHP4, IQCB1, CEP290, GLIS2, RPGRIP1L, NEK8, TMEM67, INPP5E, TMEM216, AHI1, ARL13B, CC2D2A, TTC21B, MKS1, and XPNPEP3). PCR products were then subjected to MPR on a Illumina Genome-Analyzer and mutations were subsequently assigned to their respective mutation carrier via CEL I endonuclease-based heteroduplex screening and confirmed by Sanger sequencing.
For proof of principle we used DNA from patients with known mutations and demonstrated the detection of 22 out of 24 different alleles (92% sensitivity). MPR led to the molecular diagnosis in 30/120 patients (25%) and we identified 54 pathogenic mutations (27 novel) in 7 different NPHP-AC genes. Additionally, in 24 patients we only found single heterozygous variants of unknown significance.
The combined approach of DNA pooling followed by MPR strongly facilitates mutation analysis in broadly heterogeneous single-gene disorders. The lack of mutations in 75% of patients in our cohort indicates further extensive heterogeneity in NPHP-AC.
PMCID: PMC3913043  PMID: 21068128
Next-generation sequencing; Ciliopathy; Nephronophthisis
9.  Limited proteolysis differentially modulates the stability and subcellular localization of domains of RPGRIP1 that are distinctly affected by mutations in Leber’s congenital amaurosis 
Human molecular genetics  2005;14(10):1327-1340.
The retinitis pigmentosa GTPase regulator (RPGR) protein interacts with the retinitis pigmentosa GTPase regulator interacting protein-1 (RPGRIP1). Genetic lesions in the cognate genes lead to distinct and severe human retinal dystrophies. The biological role of these proteins in retinal function and pathogenesis of retinal diseases is elusive. Here, we present the first physiological assay of the role of RPGRIP1 and mutations therein. We found that the monoallelic and homozygous mutations, ΔE1279 and D1114G, in the RPGR-interacting domain (RID) of RPGRIP1, enhance and abolish, respectively, its interaction in vivo with RPGR without affecting the stability of RID. In contrast to RIDWT and RIDD1114G, chemical genetics shows that the interaction of RIDΔE1279 with RPGR is resistant to various stress treatments such as osmotic, pH and heat-shock stimuli. Hence, RIDD1114G and RIDΔE1279 constitute loss- and gain-of-function mutations. Moreover, we find that the isoforms, bRPGRIP1 and bRPGRIP1b, undergo limited proteolysis constitutively in vivo in the cytoplasm compartment. This leads to the relocation and accumulation of a small and stable N-terminal domain of ~7 kDa to the nucleus, whereas the cytosolic C-terminal domain of RPGRIP1 is degraded and short-lived. The RIDD1114G and RIDΔE1279 mutations exhibit strong cis-acting and antagonistic biological effects on the nuclear relocation, subcellular distribution and proteolytic cleavage of RPGRIP1 and/or domains thereof. These data support distinct and spatiotemporal subcellular-specific roles to RPGRIP1. A novel RPGRIP1-mediated nucleocytoplasmic crosstalk and transport pathway regulated by RID, and hence by RPGR, emerges with implications in the molecular pathogenesis of retinopathies, and a model to other diseases.
PMCID: PMC1769350  PMID: 15800011
10.  Analysis of six candidate genes as potential modifiers of disease expression in canine XLPRA1, a model for human X-linked retinitis pigmentosa 3 
Molecular Vision  2007;13:1094-1105.
Canine X-linked progressive retinal atrophy (XLPRA) is caused by mutations in RPGR exon ORF15, which is also a mutation hotspot in human X-linked retinitis pigmentosa 3 (RP3). The XLPRA1 form of disease has shown extensive phenotypic variability in a colony of dogs that all inherited the same mutant X-chromosome. This variability in onset and severity makes XLPRA1 a valuable model to use to identify genes influencing photoreceptors degeneration in dog and to elucidate molecular mechanisms underlying RP in its human homolog. In this study, RPGRIP1, RANBP2, NPM1, PDE6D, NPHP5, and ABCA4 genes were selected on the basis of interaction with RPGR or RPGRIP1 or their implication in related retinal diseases, and were investigated as candidate genetic modifiers of XLPRA1.
A pedigree derived from an affected male dog outcrossed to unrelated normal mix bred or purebred females was used. Morphologic examination revealed phenotypic variability in the affected dogs characterized as mild, moderate, or severe. Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and indel-containing markers spanning the entire genes were designed, based on the canine sequence and the Broad Institute SNP library, and genotyped on the pedigree. For each candidate gene, haplotypes were identified and their frequencies in severely and moderately affected dogs were compared to detect a putative correlation between a gene-specific haplotype(s), and severity level of the disease. Primers were derived from expressed sequence tags (ESTs) and predicted transcripts to assess the relative retinal expression of the six genes of interest in normal and affected retinas of different ages.
Four to seven haplotypes per gene were identified. None of the haplotypes of RPGRIP1, NPM1, PDE6D, NPHP5, RANBP2, and ABCA4 were found to co-segregate with the moderate or severe phenotype. No significant difference in the retinal expression levels of the candidate genes was observed between normal and affected dogs.
The haplotype distribution of RPGRIP1, NPM1, PDE6D, NPHP5, RANBP2, and ABCA4 suggests these genes are not modifiers of the disease phenotype observed in the XLPRA1 pedigree. The RPGRORF15 stop mutation does not affect the retinal expression of these genes at the mRNA level in the pre-degenerate stage of disease, but no conclusions can be made at this time about changes that may occur at the protein level.
PMCID: PMC2779147  PMID: 17653054
11.  Variable expressivity of ciliopathy neurological phenotypes that encompass Meckel–Gruber syndrome and Joubert syndrome is caused by complex de-regulated ciliogenesis, Shh and Wnt signalling defects 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;22(7):1358-1372.
The ciliopathies are a group of heterogeneous diseases with considerable variations in phenotype for allelic conditions such as Meckel–Gruber syndrome (MKS) and Joubert syndrome (JBTS) even at the inter-individual level within families. In humans, mutations in TMEM67 (also known as MKS3) cause both MKS and JBTS, with TMEM67 encoding the orphan receptor meckelin (TMEM67) that localizes to the ciliary transition zone. We now describe the Tmem67tm1(Dgen/H) knockout mouse model that recapitulates the brain phenotypic variability of these human ciliopathies, with categorization of Tmem67 mutant animals into two phenotypic groups. An MKS-like incipient congenic group (F6 to F10) manifested very variable neurological features (including exencephaly, and frontal/occipital encephalocele) that were associated with the loss of primary cilia, diminished Shh signalling and dorsalization of the caudal neural tube. The ‘MKS-like’ group also had high de-regulated canonical Wnt/β-catenin signalling associated with hyper-activated Dishevelled-1 (Dvl-1) localized to the basal body. Conversely, a second fully congenic group (F > 10) had less variable features pathognomonic for JBTS (including cerebellar hypoplasia), and retention of abnormal bulbous cilia associated with mild neural tube ventralization. The ‘JBTS-like’ group had de-regulated low levels of canonical Wnt signalling associated with the loss of Dvl-1 localization to the basal body. Our results suggest that modifier alleles partially determine the variation between MKS and JBTS, implicating the interaction between Dvl-1 and meckelin, or other components of the ciliary transition zone. The Tmem67tm1(Dgen/H) line is unique in modelling the variable expressivity of phenotypes in these two ciliopathies.
PMCID: PMC3596847  PMID: 23283079
12.  BBS mutations modify phenotypic expression of CEP290-related ciliopathies 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;23(1):40-51.
Ciliopathies are a group of heterogeneous disorders associated with ciliary dysfunction. Diseases in this group display considerable phenotypic variation within individual syndromes and overlapping phenotypes among clinically distinct disorders. Particularly, mutations in CEP290 cause phenotypically diverse ciliopathies ranging from isolated retinal degeneration, nephronophthisis and Joubert syndrome, to the neonatal lethal Meckel–Gruber syndrome. However, the underlying mechanisms of the variable expressivity in ciliopathies are not well understood. Here, we show that components of the BBSome, a protein complex composed of seven Bardet–Biedl syndrome (BBS) proteins, physically and genetically interact with CEP290 and modulate the expression of disease phenotypes caused by CEP290 mutations. The BBSome binds to the N-terminal region of CEP290 through BBS4 and co-localizes with CEP290 to the transition zone (TZ) of primary cilia and centriolar satellites in ciliated cells, as well as to the connecting cilium in photoreceptor cells. Although CEP290 still localizes to the TZ and connecting cilium in BBSome-depleted cells, its localization to centriolar satellites is disrupted and CEP290 appears to disperse throughout the cytoplasm in BBSome-depleted cells. Genetic interactions were tested using Cep290rd16- and Bbs4-null mutant mouse lines. Additional loss of Bbs4 alleles in Cep290rd16/rd16 mice results in increased body weight and accelerated photoreceptor degeneration compared with mice without Bbs4 mutations. Furthermore, double-heterozygous mice (Cep290+/rd16;Bbs4+/−) have increased body weight compared with single-heterozygous animals. Our data indicate that genetic interactions between BBSome components and CEP290 could underlie the variable expression and overlapping phenotypes of ciliopathies caused by CEP290 mutations.
PMCID: PMC3857943  PMID: 23943788
13.  Exclusion of RPGRIP1 ins44 from Primary Causal Association with Early-Onset Cone–Rod Dystrophy in Dogs 
Canine cone–rod dystrophy 1 (cord1) has been previously mapped to CFA15, and a homozygous 44-bp insertion in exon 2 (Ins44) of canine RPGRIP1 (cRPGRIP1Ins/Ins) has been associated with the disease. However, from the recent identification of a significant discordance in genotype–phenotype association, we have reexamined the role of cRPGRIP1 in cord1.
Retinal structure and function was assessed by clinical retinal examination, noninvasive imaging, electroretinography, and histopathology/immunohistochemistry. cRPGRIP1 splicing was analyzed by RT-PCR. Retinal gene expression was determined by quantitative RT-PCR (qRT-PCR). Five markers spanning the entire cRPGRIP1 were identified and used for haplotyping.
Electroretinography demonstrated that cone responses were absent or present in cRPGRIP1Ins/Ins individuals. Moreover, performance in vision testing and optical coherence tomography (OCT) were comparable in cRPGRIP1Ins/Ins dogs, regardless of the cone ERG status. While histologic changes in retinal structure were minimal, immunohistochemistry demonstrated a lack of cone opsin labeling in cRPGRIP1Ins/Ins dogs. cDNA analysis revealed that Ins44 disrupts a putative exonic splicing enhancer that allows for skipping of exon 2, while retaining the functional RPGR-interacting domain (RID) of the protein. New cRPGRIP1 sequence changes were identified, including a 3-bp deletion affecting the 3′ acceptor splice site of alternative exon 19c. The extended haplotype spanning cRPGRIP1 was identical in cRPGRIP1Ins/Ins dogs with and without retinal degeneration. Gene expression analysis showed that expression levels were not associated with Ins44 genotype.
The results indicated that cRPGRIP1 Ins44 is an unlikely primary cause of cord1, and that the causal gene and mutation are likely located elsewhere in the critical disease interval.
In this study we provide evidence that RPGRIP1 Ins44 mutation is not the primary or only cause of cord1 in the dog model.
PMCID: PMC3422103  PMID: 22807295
14.  Structural Organization and Expression Pattern of the Canine RPGRIP1 Isoforms in Retinal Tissue 
This study characterized the complete structure of six cRPGRIP1 splicing variants expressed in adult canine retina, identified a novel 5′ and 3′ splicing pattern of the gene, and investigated the expression of the cRPGRIP1 isoforms in four additional canine tissues.
To examine the structure and expression of RPGRIP1 in dog retina.
Determination of the structural analysis and expression pattern of canine RPGRIP1 (cRPGRIP1) was based on cDNA amplification. Absolute quantification of the expression level of cRPGRIP1 splice variants was determined by qRT-PCR. Regulatory structures were examined by computational analysis of comparative genomics.
cRPGRIP1 encompasses 25 exons that harbor a 3627-bp open reading frame (ORF) encoding a 1209-amino-acid (aa)–predicted protein. In addition to the main transcript, five full-length and several partial cRPGRIP1 isoforms were identified revealing four alternative 3′-terminal exons—24, 19a, 19c, and 19d—three of which could potentially produce C-terminally truncated proteins that lack the RPGR-interacting domain. A complex organization of the 5′-UTR for the cRPGRIP1 splice products have been described, with a common promoter driving multiple isoforms, including four full-length transcripts using the 3′-terminal exon 24. In addition, a potential alternative internal promoter was revealed to initiate at least two cRPGRIP1 splice variants sharing the same 3′-terminal exon 19c. Transcription initiation sites were highly supported by conserved arrangements of cis-elements predicted in a bioinformatic analysis of orthologous RPGRIP1 promoter regions.
The use of alternative transcription start and termination sites results in substantial heterogeneity of cRPGRIP1 transcripts, many of which are likely to have tissue-specific expression. The identified exon–intron structure of cRPGRIP1 isoforms provides a basis for evaluating the gene defects underlying inherited retinal disorders in dogs.
PMCID: PMC3109012  PMID: 21282582
15.  Insights into X-linked retinitis pigmentosa type 3, allied diseases and underlying pathomechanisms 
Human molecular genetics  2005;14(SPEC):R259-R267.
In the past decade, we have witnessed great advances in the identification of genes underlying numerous neurodegenerative diseases and the stark complexity determining genotype–phenotype relationships that lead to the impairment, and ultimately, premature death of neurons. However, significant challenges lie ahead in understanding the pathobiological and spatiotemporal processes triggered by genetic lesions underlying neurodegenerative disorders. Neuroretinal dystrophies occupy a prominent place among neuro-degenerative diseases, because of the large number and prevalence of disease-causing genes, the diverse functions, the wealth of allelic, non-allelic and clinical heterogeneities determining the phenotypic expressivity and penetrance of the disease and the ease of use of animal models to probe gene function and disease pathogenesis in a well-defined neuroretinal circuitry. Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) has a prevalence of about one in 4000. RP is a retinal dystrophy leading primarily to the progressive death of photon-capturing neurons—the rod photoreceptors. X-linked retinitis pigmentosa type 3 (XlRP3) accounts up to 14% of all RP cases, higher than any other single RP locus identified to date, and considered to be the most severe of all RP cases. The XlRP3 encodes the retinitis pigmentosa GTPase regulator (RPGR). RPGR interacts with the RPGR interacting protein-1 (RPGRIP1). Mutations in RPGRIP1 cause Leber’s congenital amaurosis. This review highlights the progress devoted to understand the pathogenesis associated with XlRP3 and allied disorders and, concepts, trends and discrepancies emerging as molecular, subcellular and physiological processes linked to RPGR and RPGRIP1-protein network begin to be elucidated, and that may serve as a paradigm for other biological processes and neurodegenerative diseases.
PMCID: PMC1769351  PMID: 16244324
16.  Deep intronic mutation in OFD1, identified by targeted genomic next-generation sequencing, causes a severe form of X-linked retinitis pigmentosa (RP23) 
Human Molecular Genetics  2012;21(16):3647-3654.
X-linked retinitis pigmentosa (XLRP) is genetically heterogeneous with two causative genes identified, RPGR and RP2. We previously mapped a locus for a severe form of XLRP, RP23, to a 10.71 Mb interval on Xp22.31-22.13 containing 62 genes. Candidate gene screening failed to identify a causative mutation, so we adopted targeted genomic next-generation sequencing of the disease interval to determine the molecular cause of RP23. No coding variants or variants within or near splice sites were identified. In contrast, a variant deep within intron 9 of OFD1 increased the splice site prediction score 4 bp upstream of the variant. Mutations in OFD1 cause the syndromic ciliopathies orofaciodigital syndrome-1, which is male lethal, Simpson–Golabi–Behmel syndrome type 2 and Joubert syndrome. We tested the effect of the IVS9+706A>G variant on OFD1 splicing in vivo. In RP23 patient-derived RNA, we detected an OFD1 transcript with the insertion of a cryptic exon spliced between exons 9 and 10 causing a frameshift, p.N313fs.X330. Correctly spliced OFD1 was also detected in patient-derived RNA, although at reduced levels (39%), hence the mutation is not male lethal. Our data suggest that photoreceptors are uniquely susceptible to reduced expression of OFD1 and that an alternative disease mechanism can cause XLRP. This disease mechanism of reduced expression for a syndromic ciliopathy gene causing isolated retinal degeneration is reminiscent of CEP290 intronic mutations that cause Leber congenital amaurosis, and we speculate that reduced dosage of correctly spliced ciliopathy genes may be a common disease mechanism in retinal degenerations.
PMCID: PMC3406759  PMID: 22619378
17.  Gene Profiling of Postnatal Mfrprd6 Mutant Eyes Reveals Differential Accumulation of Prss56, Visual Cycle and Phototransduction mRNAs 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e110299.
Mutations in the membrane frizzled-related protein (MFRP/Mfrp) gene, specifically expressed in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) and ciliary body, cause nanophthalmia or posterior microphthalmia with retinitis pigmentosa in humans, and photoreceptor degeneration in mice. To better understand MFRP function, microarray analysis was performed on eyes of homozygous Mfrprd6 and C57BL/6J mice at postnatal days (P) 0 and P14, prior to photoreceptor loss. Data analysis revealed no changes at P0 but significant differences in RPE and retina-specific transcripts at P14, suggesting a postnatal influence of the Mfrprd6 allele. A subset of these transcripts was validated by quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR). In Mfrprd6 eyes, a significant 1.5- to 2.0-fold decrease was observed among transcripts of genes linked to retinal degeneration, including those involved in visual cycle (Rpe65, Lrat, Rgr), phototransduction (Pde6a, Guca1b, Rgs9), and photoreceptor disc morphogenesis (Rpgrip1 and Fscn2). Levels of RPE65 were significantly decreased by 2.0-fold. Transcripts of Prss56, a gene associated with angle-closure glaucoma, posterior microphthalmia and myopia, were increased in Mfrprd6 eyes by 17-fold. Validation by qRT-PCR indicated a 3.5-, 14- and 70-fold accumulation of Prss56 transcripts relative to controls at P7, P14 and P21, respectively. This trend was not observed in other RPE or photoreceptor mutant mouse models with similar disease progression, suggesting that Prss56 upregulation is a specific attribute of the disruption of Mfrp. Prss56 and Glul in situ hybridization directly identified Müller glia in the inner nuclear layer as the cell type expressing Prss56. In summary, the Mfrprd6 allele causes significant postnatal changes in transcript and protein levels in the retina and RPE. The link between Mfrp deficiency and Prss56 up-regulation, together with the genetic association of human MFRP or PRSS56 variants and ocular size, raises the possibility that these genes are part of a regulatory network influencing postnatal posterior eye development.
PMCID: PMC4214712  PMID: 25357075
18.  MKS and NPHP modules cooperate to establish basal body/transition zone membrane associations and ciliary gate function during ciliogenesis 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2011;192(6):1023-1041.
Eight proteins, defects in which are associated with Meckel-Gruber syndrome and nephronophthisis ciliopathies, work together as two functional modules at the transition zone to establish basal body/transition zone connections with the membrane and barricade entry of non-ciliary components into this organelle.
Meckel-Gruber syndrome (MKS), nephronophthisis (NPHP), and related ciliopathies present with overlapping phenotypes and display considerable allelism between at least twelve different genes of largely unexplained function. We demonstrate that the conserved C. elegans B9 domain (MKS-1, MKSR-1, and MKSR-2), MKS-3/TMEM67, MKS-5/RPGRIP1L, MKS-6/CC2D2A, NPHP-1, and NPHP-4 proteins exhibit essential, collective functions at the transition zone (TZ), an underappreciated region at the base of all cilia characterized by Y-shaped assemblages that link axoneme microtubules to surrounding membrane. These TZ proteins functionally interact as members of two distinct modules, which together contribute to an early ciliogenic event. Specifically, MKS/MKSR/NPHP proteins establish basal body/TZ membrane attachments before or coinciding with intraflagellar transport–dependent axoneme extension and subsequently restrict accumulation of nonciliary components within the ciliary compartment. Together, our findings uncover a unified role for eight TZ-localized proteins in basal body anchoring and establishing a ciliary gate during ciliogenesis, and suggest that disrupting ciliary gate function contributes to phenotypic features of the MKS/NPHP disease spectrum.
PMCID: PMC3063147  PMID: 21422230
19.  Mutations in TMEM216 perturb ciliogenesis and cause Joubert, Meckel and related syndromes 
Nature genetics  2010;42(7):619-625.
Joubert syndrome (JBTS), related disorders (JSRD) and Meckel syndrome (MKS) are ciliopathies. We now report that MKS2 and JBTS2 loci are allelic and due to mutations in TMEM216, encoding an uncharacterized tetraspan transmembrane protein. JBTS2 patients displayed frequent nephronophthisis and polydactytly, and two cases conformed to the Oro-Facio-Digital type VI phenotype, whereas skeletal dysplasia was common in MKS fetuses. A single p.R73L mutation was identified in all patients of Ashkenazi Jewish descent (n=10). TMEM216 localized to the base of primary cilia, and loss of TMEM216 in patient fibroblasts or following siRNA knockdown caused defective ciliogenesis and centrosomal docking, with concomitant hyperactivation of RhoA and Dishevelled. TMEM216 complexed with Meckelin, encoded by a gene also mutated in JSRD and MKS. Abrogation of tmem216 expression in zebrafish led to gastrulation defects that overlap with other ciliary morphants. The data implicate a new family of proteins in the ciliopathies, and further support allelism between ciliopathy disorders.
PMCID: PMC2894012  PMID: 20512146
20.  Genome-wide association study in RPGRIP1−/− dogs identifies a modifier locus that determines the onset of retinal degeneration 
Cone-rod dystrophy (CRD) is a form of inherited retinal degeneration (RD) causing blindness in man as well as in several breeds of dog. Previously, a 44 bp insertion in RPGRIP1 (retinitis pigmentosa GTPase regulator interacting protein-1) was associated with a recessive early-onset CRD (cone-rod dystrophy 1, cord1) in a Miniature longhaired dachshund (MLHD) research colony. Yet in the MLHD pet population, extensive range of the onset age has been observed among RD cases, with some RPGRIP1−/− dogs lacking obvious clinical signs. Phenotypic variation has been known in human homologous diseases, including retinitis pigmentosa and Leber congenital amaurosis, indicating possible involvement of modifiers. To explore additional genetic loci associated with the phenotypic variation observed in MLHDs, a genome-wide association study was carried out using Canine SNP20 arrays in 83 RPGRIP1−/− MLHDs with variable ages of onset or no clinical abnormality. Using these samples, comparison of 31 early-onset RD cases against 49 controls (15 late-onset RD and 34 normal dogs combined) identified a strong association (P = 5.05 × 10−13) at a single locus on canine chromosome 15. At this locus, the majority of early-onset RD cases but few of the controls were homozygous for a 1.49 Mb interval containing ∼11 genes. We conclude that homozygosity at both RPGRIP1 and the newly mapped second locus is necessary to develop early-onset RD, whereas RPGRIP1−/− alone leads to late-onset RD or no apparent clinical phenotype. This study establishes a unique model of canine RD requiring homozygous mutations at two distinct genetic loci for the manifestation of early-onset RD.
PMCID: PMC3947618  PMID: 22193413
21.  Mapping the Nephronophthisis-Joubert-Meckel-Gruber Protein Network Reveals Ciliopathy Disease Genes and Pathways 
Cell  2011;145(4):513-528.
Nephronophthisis (NPHP), Joubert (JBTS) and Meckel-Gruber (MKS) syndromes are autosomal-recessive ciliopathies presenting with cystic kidneys, retinal degeneration, and cerebellar/neural tube malformation. Whether defects in kidney, retinal, or neural disease primarily involve ciliary, Hedgehog, or cell polarity pathways remains unclear. Using high-confidence proteomics, we identified 850 interactors copurifying with nine NPHP/JBTS/MKS proteins, and discovered three connected modules: “NPHP1-4-8” functioning at the apical surface; “NPHP5-6” at centrosomes; and “MKS” linked to Hedgehog signaling. Assays for ciliogenesis and epithelial morphogenesis in 3D renal cultures link renal cystic disease to apical organization defects, whereas ciliary and Hedgehog pathway defects lead to retinal or neural deficits. Using 38 interactors as candidates, linkage and sequencing analysis of 250 patients identified ATXN10 and TCTN2 as new NPHP-JBTS genes and our Tctn2 mouse knockout shows neural tube and Hedgehog signaling defects. Our study further illustrates the power of linking proteomic networks and human genetics to uncover critical disease pathways.
PMCID: PMC3383065  PMID: 21565611
22.  AHI1 is required for outer segment development and is a modifier for retinal degeneration in nephronophthisis 
Nature genetics  2010;42(2):175-180.
Photoreceptor degeneration is a common feature of ciliopathies, owing to the importance of the highly specialized ciliary structure of these cells. Absence of AHI1, which encodes a cilium-localized protein, has been shown to cause a form of Joubert syndrome highly penetrant for retinal degeneration1,2. We show that Ahi1 knockout mice fail to form outer segments (OS), and show abnormal distribution of opsin throughout photoreceptors. Apoptotic cell death occurs rapidly between 2-4 weeks of age and is significantly delayed by reduced dosage of opsin. This phenotype also displays dosage-sensitive genetic interactions with Nphp1, another ciliopathy gene. Although not a primary cause of retinal blindness in humans, an allele of AHI1 modifies the relative risk of retinal degeneration greater than 7 fold within a nephronophthisis cohort. Our data support context-specific roles for AHI1 as a contributor to retinopathy and may explain a proportion of the variability of retinal phenotypes observed in nephronophthisis.
PMCID: PMC2884967  PMID: 20081859
23.  Molecular approach in the study of Alström syndrome: Analysis of ten Spanish families 
Molecular Vision  2012;18:1794-1802.
To describe the clinical and genetic findings in 11 Spanish patients with confirmed (n=5) or suspected (n=6) Alström syndrome (AS).
Patients underwent clinical evaluation, and were screened for variations in Alström syndrome 1 gene (ALMS1) using a genotyping microarray from Asper Ophthalmics and by direct sequencing of coding exons 8, 10, and 16 of ALMS1. Furthermore, we analyzed the presence of the A229T variant of retinitis pigmentosa GTPase regulator-interacting protein 1-like gene (RPGRIP1L) with direct sequencing of coding exon 6.
A great phenotypic variability was observed in our patients. Four mutations in ALMS1—two novel nonsense mutations in one family (p.Y1715X and p.S616X), one previously described mutation in homozygous state in another family (p.V3597Efs*4), and a likely pathogenic missense variation p.P1822L in a third family—were identified with direct sequencing. All patients were homozygous for 229A allele of RPGRIP1L, with the exception of a p.A229T heterozygous patient.
Our findings expand the spectrum of ALMS1 mutations causing Alström syndrome. The phenotypic differences between patients could be attributed to interactions with other genes inherited independently from the ALMS1 gene or with environmental factors. A clear understanding of the phenotypic spectrum in AS will be important to unravel the molecular mechanisms underlying this syndrome.
PMCID: PMC3413414  PMID: 22876109
24.  The ciliopathies in neuronal development: a clinical approach to investigation of Joubert syndrome and Joubert syndrome-related disorders 
A group of disorders with disparate symptomatology, including congenital cerebellar ataxia, retinal blindness, liver fibrosis, polycystic kidney disease, and polydactyly, have recently been united under a single disease mechanism called ‘ciliopathies’. The ciliopathies are due to defects of the cellular antenna known as the primary cilium, a microtubule-based extension of cellular membranes found in nearly all cell types. Key among these ciliopathies is Joubert syndrome, displaying ataxia, oculomotor apraxia, and mental retardation* with a pathognomonic ‘molar tooth sign’ on brain magnetic resonance imaging. The importance of ciliary function in neuronal development has been appreciated only in the last decade with the classification of Joubert syndrome as a ciliopathy. This, together with the identification of many of the clinical features of ciliopathies in individuals with Joubert syndrome and the localization of Joubert syndrome’s causative gene products at or near the primary cilium, have defined a new class of neurological disease. Cilia are involved in diverse cellular processes including protein trafficking, photoreception, embryonic axis patterning, and cell cycle regulation. Ciliary dysfunction can affect a single tissue or manifest as multi-organ involvement. Ciliary defects have been described in retinopathies such as retinitis pigmentosa and Leber congenital amaurosis (defects in photoreceptor ciliary protein complexes), renal syndromes with nephronophthisis and cystic dysplastic kidneys, and liver conditions such as fibrosis and biliary cirrhosis. Recognizing the diverse presentations of the ciliopathies and screening strategies following diagnosis is an important part of the treatment plan of children with cilia-related disorders.
PMCID: PMC3984879  PMID: 21679365
25.  Misexpression of the Constitutive Rpgrex1-19 Variant Leads to Severe Photoreceptor Degeneration 
This study examines temporal variability in RPGR isoform expression and tests whether the constitutive RPGRex1-19 variant can substitute for RPGR function in photoreceptors.
Mutations in the retinitis pigmentosa GTPase regulator (RPGR) gene are a frequent cause of X-linked retinitis pigmentosa. The RPGR transcript undergoes complex alternative splicing to express both constitutive (Rpgrex1-19) and RpgrORF15 variants. Both variants localize to photoreceptor connecting cilia and are believed to play roles in ciliary function. This study examined variability in isoform expression and tested whether the constitutive variant could substitute for Rpgr function in photoreceptors.
Rpgrex1-19 and RpgrORF15 expression during retinal development were compared using immunoblot analysis and immunohistochemistry, and ciliary affinity in adult photoreceptors was assessed by protein fractionation. Transgenic mice expressing either the full-length Rpgrex1-19 or RpgrORF15 variant were studied using light and electron microscopy and immunofluorescence imaging. The results were compared with those of wild-type and Rpgr−/− mice.
Rpgr expression undergoes dynamic temporal regulation during retinal development, and variants exhibit variability for ciliary localization in adult photoreceptors. Transgenic expression of both variants grossly exceeded endogenous Rpgr expression in photoreceptors. Although both variants exhibited normal ciliary localization, overexpression of the Rpgrex1-19 variant resulted in atypical accumulation of Rpgr in photoreceptor outer segments, abnormal photoreceptor morphology, and severe retinal degeneration.
The Rpgr isoform ratio in the adult retina is critical to photoreceptor integrity. The utilization of distinct Rpgr variants at different stages of photoreceptor maturation suggests independent roles in photoreceptor function. Finally, misexpression of Rpgrex1-19 causes retinal degeneration that is considerably more severe than that caused by Rpgr knockout but photoreceptors tolerate overexpression of RpgrORF15 without evidence of degeneration.
PMCID: PMC3176051  PMID: 21546531

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