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1.  ABCA4 mutations and discordant ABCA4 alleles in patients and siblings with bull's‐eye maculopathy 
The British Journal of Ophthalmology  2007;91(12):1650-1655.
To determine the frequency and nature of mutations in the gene ABCA4 in a cohort of patients with bull's‐eye maculopathy (BEM).
A panel of 49 subjects (comprising 40 probands/families, 7 sibling pairs and a set of three sibs) with BEM, not attributable to toxic causes, was ascertained. Blood samples from each patient were used to extract genomic DNA, with subsequent mutation screening of the entire coding sequence of ABCA4, using single‐strand conformational polymorphism (SSCP) analysis and direct sequencing.
Fourteen probands (35%) were found to have a potentially disease‐causing ABCA4 sequence variant on at least one allele. Three patients had a Gly1961Glu missense mutation, the most common variant in Stargardt disease (STGD), with 2 of these subjects having a macular dystrophy (MD) phenotype and a second ABCA4 variant previously associated with STGD. The second most common STGD mutation, Ala1038Val, was seen in one patient with cone–rod dystrophy (CORD). Five novel ABCA4 variants were detected. Two sibships were identified with a similar intra‐familial phenotype but discordant ABCA4 variants.
Variations in the ABCA4 gene are common in BEM. Two sibships showed discordant ABCA4 variants. One of these sibships illustrates that ABCA4 variants can be identified in families that have another molecular cause for their disease, due to the high prevalence of ABCA4 disease alleles in the population. The discordance evident in the second sibship may yet also be a chance finding in families with macular disease of another genetic cause, or it may represent a complex mode of inheritance determined/modified by the combination of ABCA4 alleles.
PMCID: PMC2095527  PMID: 18024811
2.  Molecular Diagnosis of Putative Stargardt Disease by Capture Next Generation Sequencing 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e95528.
Stargardt Disease (STGD) is the commonest genetic form of juvenile or early adult onset macular degeneration, which is a genetically heterogeneous disease. Molecular diagnosis of STGD remains a challenge in a significant proportion of cases. To address this, seven patients from five putative STGD families were recruited. We performed capture next generation sequencing (CNGS) of the probands and searched for potentially disease-causing genetic variants in previously identified retinal or macular dystrophy genes. Seven disease-causing mutations in ABCA4 and two in PROM1 were identified by CNGS, which provides a confident genetic diagnosis in these five families. We also provided a genetic basis to explain the differences among putative STGD due to various mutations in different genes. Meanwhile, we show for the first time that compound heterozygous mutations in PROM1 gene could cause cone-rod dystrophy. Our findings support the enormous potential of CNGS in putative STGD molecular diagnosis.
PMCID: PMC3999032  PMID: 24763286
3.  Exome Sequencing Analysis Identifies Compound Heterozygous Mutation in ABCA4 in a Chinese Family with Stargardt Disease 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e91962.
Stargardt disease is the most common cause of juvenile macular dystrophy. Five subjects from a two-generation Chinese family with Stargardt disease are reported in this study. All family members underwent complete ophthalmologic examinations. Patients of the family initiated the disease during childhood, developing progressively impaired central vision and bilateral atrophic macular lesions in the retinal pigmental epithelium (RPE) that resembled a “beaten-bronze” appearance. Peripheral venous blood was obtained from all patients and their family members for genetic analysis. Exome sequencing was used to analyze the exome of two patients II1, II2. A total of 50709 variations shared by the two patients were subjected to several filtering steps against existing variation databases. Identified variations were verified in all family members by PCR and Sanger sequencing. Compound heterozygous variants p.Y808X and p.G607R of the ATP-binding cassette, sub-family A (ABC1), member 4 (ABCA4) gene, which encodes the ABCA4 protein, a member of the ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transport superfamily, were identified as causative mutations for Stargardt disease of this family. Our findings provide one novel ABCA4 mutation in Chinese patients with Stargardt disease.
PMCID: PMC3954841  PMID: 24632595
4.  ABCA4 mutations in Portuguese Stargardt patients: identification of new mutations and their phenotypic analysis 
Molecular Vision  2009;15:584-591.
To resolve the spectrum of causative retina-specific ATP-binding cassette transporter gene (ABCA4) gene mutations in Portuguese Stargardt (STGD) patients and compare allele frequencies obtained in this cohort with those of previous population surveys.
Using a microarray technique (ABCR400 gene chip), we screened all previously reported ABCA4 gene mutations in the genomic DNA of 27 patients from 21 unrelated Stargardt families whose phenotypes had been clinically evaluated using psychophysics and electrophysiological measurements. Furthermore, we performed denaturing high performance liquid chromatography whenever one or both mutant alleles failed to be detected using the ABCR gene chip.
A total of 36 mutant alleles (out of the 54 tested) were identified in STGD patients, resulting in a detection rate of 67%. Two mutant alleles were present in 12 out of 21 STGD families (57%), whereas in four out of 21 (19%) of the families, only one mutant allele was found. We report the presence of 22 putative pathogenic alterations, including two sequence changes not found in other populations, c.2T>C (p.Met1Thr) and c.4036_4037delAC (p.Thr1346fs), and two novel disease-associated variants, c.400C>T (p.Gln134X) and c.4720G>T (p.Glu1574X). The great majority of the mutations were missense (72.7%). Seven frameshift variants (19.4%), three nonsense mutations (8.3%), and one splicing sequence change (2.7%) were also found in STGD chromosomes. The most prevalent pathologic variant was the missense mutation p.Leu11Pro. Present in 19% of the families, this mutation represents a quite high prevalence in comparison to other European populations. In addition, 23 polymorphisms were also identified, including four novel intronic sequence variants.
To our knowledge, this study represents the first report of ABCA4 mutations in Portuguese STGD patients and provides further evidence of different mutation frequency across populations. Phenotypic characterization of novel putative mutations was addressed.
PMCID: PMC2660377  PMID: 19365591
5.  Molecular analysis of ABCA4 and CRB1 genes in a Spanish family segregating both Stargardt disease and autosomal recessive retinitis pigmentosa 
Molecular Vision  2008;14:262-267.
Stargardt disease (STGD), characterized by central visual impairment, is the most common juvenile macular dystrophy. All recessively inherited cases are thought to be due to mutations in the ABCA4 gene. Early-onset autosomal recessive retinitis pigmentosa (arRP) is a severe retinal degeneration that presents before the patient is ten years old. It has been associated with mutations in different genes, including CRB1. The aim of this study was to determine the genetic causes for two different retinal dystrophies, STGD and early-onset arRP, both segregating in one Spanish family.
Mutational analyses were performed using the ABCR400 and Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) genotyping microarrays. Additional scanning for mutations was conducted by denaturing high performance liquid chromatography (dHPLC); results were confirmed by direct sequencing.
A patient, who exhibited a STGD phenotype, was found to be homozygous for the p.Asn1805Asp (c.5413A>G) mutation in ABCA4. However, his affected sister, who had the arRP phenotype, was found to be heterozygous for this allele; no other sequence change could be found in ABCA4. Analysis using the LCA chip revealed the p.Cys948Tyr mutation in CRB1 in heterozygous state. A second mutation (p.Trp822ter) was found in the CRB1 gene in the affected female by denaturing high performance liquid chromatography (dHPLC) and direct sequencing.
Two distinct retinal dystrophies with mutations affecting two different genes cosegregated in this family. The presence of two different phenotypes associated with mutations in two distinct genes in one single family must be considered especially when dealing with retinal dystrophies which bear high carrier frequencies in general population.
PMCID: PMC2258218  PMID: 18334942
6.  Defective Lipid Transport and Biosynthesis in Recessive and Dominant Stargardt Macular Degeneration 
Progress in lipid research  2010;49(4):476-492.
Stargardt disease is a common inherited macular degeneration characterized by a significant loss in central vision in the first or second decade of life, bilateral atrophic changes in the central retina associated with degeneration of photoreceptors and underlying retinal pigment epithelial cells, and the presence of yellow flecks extending from the macula. Autosomal recessive Stargardt disease, the most common macular dystrophy, is caused by mutations in the gene encoding ABCA4, a photoreceptor ATP binding cassette (ABC) transporter. Biochemical studies together with analysis of abca4 knockout mice and Stargardt patients have implicated ABCA4 as a lipid transporter that facilitates the removal of potentially toxic retinal compounds from photoreceptors following photoexcitation. An autosomal dominant form of Stargardt disease also known as Stargardt-like dystrophy is caused by mutations in a gene encoding ELOVL4, an enzyme that catalyzes the elongation of very long chain fatty acids in photoreceptors and other tissues. This review focuses on the molecular characterization of ABCA4 and ELOVL4 and their role in photoreceptor cell biology and the pathogenesis of Stargardt disease.
PMCID: PMC2946192  PMID: 20633576
Stargardt Disease; ABCA4; ABC Transporters; Retinoids; ELOVL4; Elongase; Very long chain fatty acids
7.  Partial paternal uniparental disomy (UPD) of chromosome 1 in a patient with Stargardt disease 
Molecular Vision  2007;13:96-101.
Stargardt disease (STGD) is the most common juvenile macular dystrophy, characterized by central visual impairment. All recessively inherited cases are thought to be due to mutations in the ABCA4 gene, mapped to 1p21-p13.
To describe a form of non-mendelian inheritance in a patient with STGD identified through the course of a conventional mutational screening performed on 77 STGD families. DNA from the patient and relatives was analyzed for variants in all 50 exons of the ABCA4 gene by screening on the ABCR400 microarray; results were confirmed by direct sequencing. Haplotype analyses, standard and high-resolution (HR) karyotypes, and multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification (MLPA) were also performed.
A patient with STGD caused by the homozygous p.Arg1129Leu mutation in the ABCA4 gene was found to be the daughter of a noncarrier mother and a father who was heterozygous for this change. Haplotype analysis suggested that no maternal ABCA4 allele was transmitted to the patient. Microsatellite markers spanning the entire chromosome 1 identified a homozygous region of at least 4.4 Mb, involving the ABCA4 gene. The cytogenetic study revealed normal female karyotype. Further evaluation with MLPA showed the patient had a normal dosage for both copies of the ABCA4 gene, thus suggesting partial paternal isodisomy but not a maternal microdeletion.
We report that recessive STGD can rarely be inherited from only one unaffected carrier parent in a non-mendelian manner. This study also demonstrates that genomic alterations contribute to only a small fraction of disease-associated alleles for ABCA4.
PMCID: PMC2553007  PMID: 17277736
8.  Exome Sequencing of Index Patients with Retinal Dystrophies as a Tool for Molecular Diagnosis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e65574.
Retinal dystrophies (RD) are a group of hereditary diseases that lead to debilitating visual impairment and are usually transmitted as a Mendelian trait. Pathogenic mutations can occur in any of the 100 or more disease genes identified so far, making molecular diagnosis a rather laborious process. In this work we explored the use of whole exome sequencing (WES) as a tool for identification of RD mutations, with the aim of assessing its applicability in a diagnostic context.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We ascertained 12 Spanish families with seemingly recessive RD. All of the index patients underwent mutational pre-screening by chip-based sequence hybridization and resulted to be negative for known RD mutations. With the exception of one pedigree, to simulate a standard diagnostic scenario we processed by WES only the DNA from the index patient of each family, followed by in silico data analysis. We successfully identified causative mutations in patients from 10 different families, which were later verified by Sanger sequencing and co-segregation analyses. Specifically, we detected pathogenic DNA variants (∼50% novel mutations) in the genes RP1, USH2A, CNGB3, NMNAT1, CHM, and ABCA4, responsible for retinitis pigmentosa, Usher syndrome, achromatopsia, Leber congenital amaurosis, choroideremia, or recessive Stargardt/cone-rod dystrophy cases.
Despite the absence of genetic information from other family members that could help excluding nonpathogenic DNA variants, we could detect causative mutations in a variety of genes known to represent a wide spectrum of clinical phenotypes in 83% of the patients analyzed. Considering the constant drop in costs for human exome sequencing and the relative simplicity of the analyses made, this technique could represent a valuable tool for molecular diagnostics or genetic research, even in cases for which no genotypes from family members are available.
PMCID: PMC3683009  PMID: 23940504
9.  Non-exomic and synonymous variants in ABCA4 are an important cause of Stargardt disease 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;22(25):5136-5145.
Mutations in ABCA4 cause Stargardt disease and other blinding autosomal recessive retinal disorders. However, sequencing of the complete coding sequence in patients with clinical features of Stargardt disease sometimes fails to detect one or both mutations. For example, among 208 individuals with clear clinical evidence of ABCA4 disease ascertained at a single institution, 28 had only one disease-causing allele identified in the exons and splice junctions of the primary retinal transcript of the gene. Haplotype analysis of these 28 probands revealed 3 haplotypes shared among ten families, suggesting that 18 of the 28 missing alleles were rare enough to be present only once in the cohort. We hypothesized that mutations near rare alternate splice junctions in ABCA4 might cause disease by increasing the probability of mis-splicing at these sites. Next-generation sequencing of RNA extracted from human donor eyes revealed more than a dozen alternate exons that are occasionally incorporated into the ABCA4 transcript in normal human retina. We sequenced the genomic DNA containing 15 of these minor exons in the 28 one-allele subjects and observed five instances of two different variations in the splice signals of exon 36.1 that were not present in normal individuals (P < 10−6). Analysis of RNA obtained from the keratinocytes of patients with these mutations revealed the predicted alternate transcript. This study illustrates the utility of RNA sequence analysis of human donor tissue and patient-derived cell lines to identify mutations that would be undetectable by exome sequencing.
PMCID: PMC3842174  PMID: 23918662
10.  Genetics and molecular pathology of Stargardt-like macular degeneration 
Stargardt-like macular degeneration (STGD3) is an early onset, autosomal dominant macular degeneration. STGD3 is characterized by a progressive pathology, the loss of central vision, atrophy of the retinal pigment epithelium, and accumulation of lipofuscin, clinical features that are also characteristic of age-related macular degeneration. The onset of clinical symptoms in STGD3, however, is typically observed within the second or third decade of life (i.e., starting in the teenage years). The clinical profile at any given age among STGD3 patients can be variable suggesting that, although STGD3 is a single gene defect, other genetic or environmental factors may play a role in moderating the final disease phenotype. Genetic studies localized the STGD3 disease locus to a small region on the short arm of human chromosome 6, and application of a positional candidate gene approach identified protein truncating mutations in the elongation of very long chain fatty acids-4 gene (ELOVL4) in patients with this disease. The ELOVL4 gene encodes a protein homologous to the ELO group of proteins that participate in fatty acid elongation in yeast. Pathogenic mutations found in the ELOVL4 gene result in altered trafficking of the protein and behave with a dominant negative effect. Mice carrying an Elovl4 mutation developed photoreceptor degeneration and depletion of very long chain fatty acids (VLCFA). ELOVL4 protein participates in the synthesis of fatty acids with chain length longer than 26 carbons. Studies on ELOVL4 indicate that VLCFA may be necessary for normal function of the retina, and the defective protein trafficking and/or altered VLCFA elongation underlies the pathology associated with STGD3. Determining the role of VLCFA in the retina and discerning the implications of abnormal trafficking of mutant ELOVL4 and depleted VLCFA content in the pathology of STGD3 will provide valuable insight in understanding the retinal structure, function, and pathology underlying STGD3 and may lead to a better understanding of the process of macular disease in general.
PMCID: PMC3059896  PMID: 20096366
STGD3; ELOVL4; Fatty acids; Dominant negative effect; Protein accumulation; Animal models
11.  Elovl4 haploinsufficiency does not induce early onset retinal degeneration in mice 
Vision research  2007;47(5):714-722.
ELOVL4 was first identified as a disease-causing gene in Stargardt macular dystrophy (STGD3, MIM 600110.) To date, three ELOVL4 mutations have been identified, all of which result in truncated proteins which induce autosomal dominant juvenile macular degenerations. Based on sequence homology, ELOVL4 is thought to be another member within a family of proteins functioning in the elongation of long chain fatty acids. However, the normal function of ELOVL4 is unclear. We generated Elovl4 knockout mice to determine if Elovl4 loss affects retinal development or function. Here we show that Elovl4 knockout mice, while perinatal lethal, exhibit normal retinal development prior to death at day of birth. Further, postnatal retinal development in Elovl4 heterozygous mice appears normal. Therefore haploinsufficiency for wildtype ELOVL4 in autosomal dominant macular degeneration likely does not contribute to juvenile macular degeneration in STGD3 patients. We found, however, that Elovl4+/− mice exhibit enhanced ERG scotopic and photopic a and b waves relative to wildtype Elovl4+/+ mice suggesting that reduced Elovl4 levels may impact retinal electrophysiological responses.
PMCID: PMC2583245  PMID: 17254625
STGD3; Elovl4; knockout; mouse; ERG
12.  Frequency of ABCA4 mutations in 278 Spanish controls: an insight into the prevalence of autosomal recessive Stargardt disease 
The British Journal of Ophthalmology  2008;93(10):1359-1364.
To determine the carrier frequency of ABCA4 mutations in order to achieve an insight into the prevalence of autosomal recessive Stargardt disease (arSTGD) in the Spanish population.
arSTGD patients (n = 133) were analysed using ABCR400 microarray and sequencing. Control subjects were analysed by two different strategies: 200 individuals were screened for the p.Arg1129Leu mutation by denaturing-HPLC and sequencing; 78 individuals were tested for variants with the microarray and sequencing.
For the first strategy in control subjects, the p.Arg1129Leu variant was found in two heterozygous individuals, which would mean a carrier frequency for any variant of ∼6.0% and a calculated arSTGD prevalence of 1:1000. For the second strategy, carrier frequency was 6.4% and therefore an estimated prevalence of the disease of 1:870.
Calculated prevalence of arSTGD based on the ABCA4 carrier frequency could be considerably higher than previous estimation. This discrepancy between observed (genotypic) and estimated (phenotypic) prevalence could be due to the existence of non-pathological or low penetrance alleles, which may result in late-onset arSTGD or may be implicated in age-related macular degeneration. This situation should be regarded with especial care when genetic counselling is given and further follow-up of these patients should be recommended.
PMCID: PMC2743849  PMID: 18977788
13.  Novel ABCA4 compound heterozygous mutations cause severe progressive autosomal recessive cone-rod dystrophy presenting as Stargardt disease 
Molecular Vision  2009;15:638-645.
To identify the gene causing a severe form of progressive autosomal recessive cone-rod dystrophy presenting as Stargardt disease and to characterize clinical features in a large American family.
We characterized an American family who had an unusual retinal dystrophy with clinical features of Stargardt disease and severe progressive cone-rod dystrophy. Family members underwent complete ocular examinations with evaluation of visual acuity, visual fields, fundus examination, fluorescein angiography, and electroretinography. Genome-wide linkage analysis of the family was performed using 408 microsatellite markers spanning the entire human genome. Direct DNA sequence analysis was used for mutational analysis of the ABCA4 gene in all exons and exon-intron boundary regions and for testing cosegregation of the mutations with the disease in the family. DNA sequence analysis was used to determine the presence of the mutations in 200 unrelated controls.
The proband presented with a clinical phenotype that was initially compatible with Stargardt disease, only to progress to a severe cone-rod dystrophy over the course of a few years. The disease-causing gene in the family was linked to the ABCA4 locus on chromosomal 1p22. One novel mutation, c.655A>T, was identified in exon 6 and another novel splicing mutation, c.5312+3A>T, was identified in intron 37 of ABCA4. The mutations were not present in 200 controls. The two affected sisters in this pedigree were compound heterozygotes for the mutations. Unaffected family members either did not carry either or had only one of the two mutations.
We have identified two novel ABCA4 mutations, c.655A>T and c.5312+3A>T. When present as a compound heterozygous state, the mutations cause a phenotype of retinal dystrophy that initially manifests as Stargardt disease and slowly progresses to a severe cone-rod dystrophy. These results expand the wide range of clinical manifestations of ABCA4 mutations.
PMCID: PMC2665199  PMID: 19352439
14.  Analysis of the ABCA4 Gene by Next-Generation Sequencing 
The authors conducted comprehensive analysis of an important and very variable eye disease gene, ABCA4, by next-generation sequencing in a large cohort of patients and follow-up analysis of identified mutations in both coding and noncoding regions of the ABCA4 locus.
To find all possible disease-associated variants in coding sequences of the ABCA4 gene in a large cohort of patients diagnosed with ABCA4-associated diseases.
One hundred sixty-eight patients who had been clinically diagnosed with Stargardt disease, cone-rod dystrophy, and other ABCA4-associated phenotypes were prescreened for mutations in ABCA4 with the ABCA4 microarray, resulting in finding 1 of 2 expected mutations in 111 patients and 0 of 2 mutations in 57 patients. The next-generation sequencing (NGS) strategy was applied to these patients to sequence the entire coding region and the splice sites of the ABCA4 gene. Identified new variants were confirmed or rejected by Sanger sequencing and analyzed for possible pathogenicity by in silico programs and, where possible, by segregation analyses.
Sequencing was successful in 159 of 168 patients and identified the second disease-associated allele in 49 of 103 (∼48%) of patients with one previously identified mutation. Among those with no mutations, both disease-associated alleles were detected in 4 of 56 patients, and one mutation was detected in 10 of 56 patients. The authors detected a total of 57 previously unknown, possibly pathogenic, variants: 29 missense, 4 nonsense, 9 small deletions and 15 splice-site-altering variants. Of these, 55 variants were deemed pathogenic by a combination of predictive methods and segregation analyses.
Many mutations in the coding sequences of the ABCA4 gene are still unknown, and many possibly reside in noncoding regions of the ABCA4 locus. Although the ABCA4 array remains a good first-pass screening option, the NGS platform is a time- and cost-efficient tool for screening large cohorts.
PMCID: PMC3208189  PMID: 21911583
15.  Cone Photoreceptor Abnormalities Correlate with Vision Loss in Patients with Stargardt Disease 
Adaptive optics scanning laser ophthalmoscopy demonstrated abnormal cone spacing in regions of abnormal fundus autofluorescence and reduced visual function in 12 patients with Stargardt disease.
To study the relationship between macular cone structure, fundus autofluorescence (AF), and visual function in patients with Stargardt disease (STGD).
High-resolution images of the macula were obtained with adaptive optics scanning laser ophthalmoscopy (AOSLO) and spectral domain optical coherence tomography in 12 patients with STGD and 27 age-matched healthy subjects. Measures of retinal structure and AF were correlated with visual function, including best-corrected visual acuity, color vision, kinetic and static perimetry, fundus-guided microperimetry, and full-field electroretinography. Mutation analysis of the ABCA4 gene was completed in all patients.
Patients were 15 to 55 years old, and visual acuity ranged from 20/25–20/320. Central scotomas were present in all patients, although the fovea was spared in three patients. The earliest cone spacing abnormalities were observed in regions of homogeneous AF, normal visual function, and normal outer retinal structure. Outer retinal structure and AF were most normal near the optic disc. Longitudinal studies showed progressive increases in AF followed by reduced AF associated with losses of visual sensitivity, outer retinal layers, and cones. At least one disease-causing mutation in the ABCA4 gene was identified in 11 of 12 patients studied; 1 of 12 patients showed no disease-causing ABCA4 mutations.
AOSLO imaging demonstrated abnormal cone spacing in regions of abnormal fundus AF and reduced visual function. These findings provide support for a model of disease progression in which lipofuscin accumulation results in homogeneously increased AF with cone spacing abnormalities, followed by heterogeneously increased AF with cone loss, then reduced AF with cone and RPE cell death. ( number, NCT00254605.)
PMCID: PMC3109028  PMID: 21296825
16.  Assessment of the interphotoreceptor matrix proteoglycan-1 (IMPG1) gene localised to 6q13-q15 in autosomal dominant Stargardt-like disease (ADSTGD), progressive bifocal chorioretinal atrophy (PBCRA), and North Carolina macular dystrophy (MCDR1). 
Journal of Medical Genetics  1998;35(8):641-645.
We have recently characterised the genomic organisation of a novel interphotoreceptor matrix proteoglycan, IMPG1, and have mapped the gene locus to chromosome 6q13-q15 by fluorescence in situ hybridisation. As the interphotoreceptor matrix (IPM) is thought to play a critical role in retinal adhesion and the maintenance of photoreceptor cells, it is conceivable that a defect in one of the IPM components may cause degenerative lesions in retinal structures and thus may be associated with human retinopathies. By genetic linkage analysis, several retinal dystrophies including one form of autosomal dominant Stargardt-like macular dystrophy (STGD3), progressive bifocal chorioretinal atrophy (PBCRA), and North Carolina macular dystrophy (MCDR1) have previously been localised to a region on proximal 6q that overlaps the IMPG1 locus. We have therefore assessed the entire coding region of IMPG1 by exon amplification and subsequent single stranded conformational analysis in patients from 6q linked multigeneration families diagnosed with PBCRA and MCDR1, as well as a single patient from an autosomal dominant STGD pedigree unlinked to either of the two known STGD2 and STGD3 loci on chromosomes 13q and 6q, respectively. No disease associated mutations were identified. In addition, using an intragenic polymorphism, IMPG1 was excluded by genetic recombination from both the PBCRA and the MCDR1 loci. However, as the autosomal dominant Stargardt-like macular dystrophies are genetically heterogeneous, other forms of this disorder, in particular STGD3 previously linked to 6q, may be caused by mutations in IMPG1.
PMCID: PMC1051388  PMID: 9719369
17.  Molecular analysis of the ABCA4 gene for reliable detection of allelic variations in Spanish patients: identification of 21 novel variants 
Mutations in ABCA4 have been associated with autosomal recessive Stargardt disease (STGD), a few cases with autosomal recessive cone–rod dystrophy (arCRD) and autosomal recessive retinitis pigmentosa (arRP). The purpose of the study was threefold: to molecularly characterise families with no mutations or partially characterised families; to determine the specificity and sensitivity of the genotyping microarray; and to evaluate the efficiency of different methodologies.
23 STGD, five arCRD and three arRP Spanish patients who were previously analysed with the ABCR400 microarray were re-evaluated. Results were confirmed by direct sequencing. In patients with either none or only one mutant allele, ABCA4 was further analysed by denaturing high-performance liquid chromatography (dHPLC) and multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification (MLPA). Haplotype analysis was also performed.
In the first analysis performed with the microarray, 27 ABCA4 variants (27/62; 43.5%) were found. By dHPLC scanning, 12 novel mutations were additionally identified. In addition, two previously described mutations, one false negative (1/62; 1.6%) and one false positive (1.6%), were detected. MLPA analysis did not reveal additional substitutions. The new strategy yielded an increment of 21% compared with the approach used in the first round.
ABCA4 should be analysed by optimal combination of high-throughput screening techniques such as microarray, dHPLC and direct sequencing. To the best of our knowledge, this strategy yielded significant mutational spectrum identification in Spanish patients with ABCA4-associated phenotypes. Follow-up of patients, presenting an early onset of the disease and severe mutations, seems essential to perform accurate genotype–phenotype correlations and further characterisation of pathological ABCA4 alleles.
PMCID: PMC2668911  PMID: 19028736
18.  Cone rod dystrophies 
Cone rod dystrophies (CRDs) (prevalence 1/40,000) are inherited retinal dystrophies that belong to the group of pigmentary retinopathies. CRDs are characterized by retinal pigment deposits visible on fundus examination, predominantly localized to the macular region. In contrast to typical retinitis pigmentosa (RP), also called the rod cone dystrophies (RCDs) resulting from the primary loss in rod photoreceptors and later followed by the secondary loss in cone photoreceptors, CRDs reflect the opposite sequence of events. CRD is characterized by primary cone involvement, or, sometimes, by concomitant loss of both cones and rods that explains the predominant symptoms of CRDs: decreased visual acuity, color vision defects, photoaversion and decreased sensitivity in the central visual field, later followed by progressive loss in peripheral vision and night blindness. The clinical course of CRDs is generally more severe and rapid than that of RCDs, leading to earlier legal blindness and disability. At end stage, however, CRDs do not differ from RCDs. CRDs are most frequently non syndromic, but they may also be part of several syndromes, such as Bardet Biedl syndrome and Spinocerebellar Ataxia Type 7 (SCA7). Non syndromic CRDs are genetically heterogeneous (ten cloned genes and three loci have been identified so far). The four major causative genes involved in the pathogenesis of CRDs are ABCA4 (which causes Stargardt disease and also 30 to 60% of autosomal recessive CRDs), CRX and GUCY2D (which are responsible for many reported cases of autosomal dominant CRDs), and RPGR (which causes about 2/3 of X-linked RP and also an undetermined percentage of X-linked CRDs). It is likely that highly deleterious mutations in genes that otherwise cause RP or macular dystrophy may also lead to CRDs. The diagnosis of CRDs is based on clinical history, fundus examination and electroretinogram. Molecular diagnosis can be made for some genes, genetic counseling is always advised. Currently, there is no therapy that stops the evolution of the disease or restores the vision, and the visual prognosis is poor. Management aims at slowing down the degenerative process, treating the complications and helping patients to cope with the social and psychological impact of blindness.
PMCID: PMC1808442  PMID: 17270046
19.  Subretinal Fibrosis in Stargardt's Disease with Fundus Flavimaculatus and ABCA4 Gene Mutation 
Case Reports in Ophthalmology  2012;3(3):410-417.
To report on 4 patients affected by Stargardt's disease (STGD) with fundus flavimaculatus (FFM) and ABCA4 gene mutation associated with subretinal fibrosis.
Four patients with a diagnosis of STGD were clinically examined. All 4 cases underwent a full ophthalmologic evaluation, including best-corrected visual acuity measured by the Snellen visual chart, biomicroscopic examination, fundus examination, fundus photography, electroretinogram, microperimetry, optical coherence tomography and fundus autofluorescence. All patients were subsequently screened for ABCA4 gene mutations, identified by microarray genotyping and confirmed by conventional DNA sequencing of the relevant exons.
In all 4 patients, ophthalmologic exam showed areas of subretinal fibrosis in different retinal sectors. In only 1 case, these lesions were correlated to an ocular trauma as confirmed by biomicroscopic examination of the anterior segment that showed a nuclear cataract dislocated to the superior site and vitreous opacities along the lens capsule. The other patients reported a lifestyle characterized by competitive sport activities. The performed instrumental diagnostic investigations confirmed the diagnosis of STGD with FFM in all patients. Moreover, in all 4 affected individuals, mutations in the ABCA4 gene were found.
Patients with the diagnosis of STGD associated with FFM can show atypical fundus findings. We report on 4 patients affected by STGD with ABCA4 gene mutation associated with subretinal fibrosis. Our findings suggest that this phenomenon can be accelerated by ocular trauma and also by ocular microtrauma caused by sport activities, highlighting that lifestyle can play a role in the onset of these lesions.
PMCID: PMC3551412  PMID: 23341817
Stargardt's disease; ABCA4 gene; Subretinal fibrosis; Ocular trauma; Lifestyle
20.  Increased cone sensitivity to ABCA4 deficiency provides insight into macular vision loss in Stargardt’s dystrophy 
Biochimica et Biophysica Acta  2011;1822(7):1169-1179.
Autosomal recessive Stargardt macular dystrophy is caused by mutations in the photoreceptor disc rim protein ABCA4/ABCR. Key clinical features of Stargardt disease include relatively mild rod defects such as delayed dark adaptation, coupled with severe cone defects reflected in macular atrophy and central vision loss. In spite of this clinical divergence, there has been no biochemical study of the effects of ABCA4 deficiency on cones vs. rods. Here we utilize the cone-dominant Abca4−/−/Nrl−/− double knockout mouse to study this issue. We show that as early as post-natal day (P) 30, Abca4−/−/Nrl−/− retinas have significantly fewer rosettes than Abca4+/+/Nrl−/− retinas, a phenotype often associated with accelerated degeneration. Abca4-deficient mice in both the wild-type and cone-dominant background accumulate more of the toxic bisretinoid A2E than their ABCA4-competent counterparts, but Abca4−/−/Nrl−/− eyes generate significantly more A2E per mole of 11-cis-retinal (11-cisRAL) than Abca4−/− eyes. At P120, Abca4−/−/Nrl−/− produced 340±121 pmoles A2E/nmol 11-cisRAL while Abca4−/− produced 50.4±8.05 pmoles A2E/nmol 11-cisRAL. Nevertheless, the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) of Abca4−/−/Nrl−/− eyes exhibits fewer lipofuscin granules than the RPE of Abca4−/− eyes; at P120: Abca4−/−/Nrl−/− exhibit 0.045±0.013 lipofuscin granules/μm2 of RPE vs. Abca4−/− 0.17±0.030 lipofuscin granules/μm2 of RPE. These data indicate that ABCA4-deficient cones simultaneously generate more A2E than rods and are less able to effectively clear it, and suggest that primary cone toxicity may contribute to Stargardt’s-associated macular vision loss in addition to cone death secondary to RPE atrophy.
PMCID: PMC3351560  PMID: 22033104
ABCA4; Cone; Retinal degeneration; Stargardt’s; A2E
21.  ABCA4 gene analysis in patients with autosomal recessive cone and cone rod dystrophies 
The ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters constitute a family of large membrane proteins which transport a variety of substrates across membranes. The ABCA4 protein is expressed in photoreceptors and possibly functions as a transporter for N-retinylidene-phosphatidylethanolamine (N-retinylidene-PE), the Schiff base adduct of all-trans-retinal with PE. Mutations in the ABCA4 gene have been initially associated with autosomal recessive Stargardt disease. Subsequent studies have shown that mutations in ABCA4 can also cause a variety of other retinal dystrophies including cone rod dystrophy and retinitis pigmentosa. To determine the prevalence and mutation spectrum of ABCA4 gene mutations in non-Stargardt phenotypes we have screened 64 unrelated patients with autosomal recessive cone (arCD) and cone rod dystrophy (arCRD) applying the Asper Ophthalmics ABCR400 microarray followed by DNA sequencing of all coding exons of the ABCA4 gene in subjects with single heterozygous mutations.
Disease-associated ABCA4 alleles were identified in 20 of 64 patients with arCD or arCRD. In four of 64 patients (6%) only one mutant ABCA4 allele was detected and in 16 patients (25%), mutations on both ABCA4 alleles were identified. Based on these data we estimate a prevalence of 31% for ABCA4 mutations in arCD and arCRD, supporting the concept that the ABCA4 gene is a major locus for various types of degenerative retinal diseases with abnormalities in cone or both cone and rod function.
PMCID: PMC2579899  PMID: 18285826
22.  DHA does not protect ELOVL4 transgenic mice from retinal degeneration 
Molecular Vision  2009;15:1185-1193.
Dominant Stargardt macular dystrophy (STGD3) is caused by several different mutations in a gene named ELOVL4, which shares sequence homologies with a family of genes that encode proteins involved in the ELOngation of Very Long chain fatty acids. Studies have suggested that patients with STGD3 have aberrant metabolism of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6n3), the major polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) in retinal rod outer segment membranes. We tested the effect of DHA on the progression of retinal degeneration in transgenic mice that express one of the mutations identified in STGD3.
Transgenic mice expressing mutant human ELOVL4 (TG2) were bred to mice expressing the fat-1 protein, which can convert n6 to n3 PUFA. Mice were maintained on an n3-deficient diet containing 10% safflower oil (SFO, enriched in n6 PUFA; n6/n3=273) so that four experimental groups were produced that differed only in levels of n3 PUFA and expression of the hELOVL4 transgene. These groups were identified by genotyping and named Fat1+/TG2+, Fat1–/TG2+, Fat1+/TG2–, and Fat1–/TG2–. All were continued on the SFO diet for 4 to 16 weeks such that those not expressing Fat1 would be deficient in n3 fatty acids. At both time points, animals were analyzed for retinal function by electroretinography (ERG), photoreceptor cell viability by outer nuclear layer (ONL) thickness measurements, fatty acid profiles in several tissues, and rhodopsin levels.
Mice expressing the fat-1 transgene had significantly higher levels of n3 PUFA, primarily DHA, in retina, liver, and plasma lipids at 4 and 16 weeks of age. Retinal DHA levels in fat-1 mice were twice those of controls. By 16 weeks of age, mice expressing the mutant hELOVL4 transgene had a significantly greater loss of photoreceptor cells, reduced ERG amplitudes, and lower rhodopsin levels than control mice. There was no effect of retinal fatty acids on the rate of degeneration of retinas expressing the ELOVL4 transgene.
We found no evidence that high levels of DHA in retinal membranes protected photoreceptor cells expressing mutant ELOVL4 from retinal degeneration. We conclude that DHA is not beneficial for the treatment of retinal degeneration in this animal model of human STGD3 macular dystrophy.
PMCID: PMC2697457  PMID: 19536303
23.  Outcome of ABCA4 microarray screening in routine clinical practice 
Molecular Vision  2009;15:2841-2847.
To retrospectively analyze the clinical characteristics of patients who were screened for mutations with the ATP-binding cassette transporter gene ABCA4 (ABCA4) microarray in a routine clinical DNA diagnostics setting.
We performed a retrospective analysis of the medical charts of 65 patients who underwent an ABCA4 microarray screening between the years 2002 and 2006. An additional denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) was performed in these patients if less than two mutations were found with the microarray. We included all patients who were suspected of autosomal recessive Stargardt disease (STGD1), autosomal recessive cone–rod dystrophy (arCRD), or autosomal recessive retinitis pigmentosa at the time of microarray request. After a retrospective analysis of the clinical characteristics, the patients who were suspected of STGD1 were categorized as having either a typical or atypical form of STGD1, according to the age at onset, fundus appearance, fluorescein angiography, and electroretinography. The occurrence of typical clinical features for STGD1 was compared between patients with different numbers of discovered mutations.
Of the 44 patients who were suspected of STGD1, 26 patients (59%) had sufficient data available for a classification in either typical (six patients; 23%) or atypical (20 patients; 77%) STGD1. In the suspected STGD1 group, 59% of all expected pathogenic alleles were found with the ABCA4 microarray. DGGE led to the finding of 12 more mutations, resulting in an overall detection rate of 73%. Thirty-one percent of patients with two or three discovered ABCA4 mutations met all typical STGD1 criteria. An age at onset younger than 25 years and a dark choroid on fluorescein angiography were the most predictive clinical features to find ABCA4 mutations in patients suspected of STGD1. In 18 patients suspected of arCRD, microarray screening detected 22% of the possible pathogenic alleles.
In addition to confirmation of the diagnosis in typical STGD1, ABCA4 microarray screening is usually requested in daily clinical practice to strengthen the diagnosis when the disease is atypical. This study supports the view that the efficiency and accuracy of ABCA4 microarray screening are directly dependent upon the clinical features of the patients who are screened.
PMCID: PMC2796636  PMID: 20029649
24.  Retinal Phenotypes in Patients Homozygous for the G1961E Mutation in the ABCA4 Gene 
We evaluated the pathogenicity of the G1961E mutation in the ABCA4 gene, and present the range of retinal phenotypes associated with this mutation in homozygosity in a patient cohort with ABCA4-associated phenotypes.
Patients were enrolled from the ABCA4 disease database at Columbia University or by inquiry from collaborating physicians. Only patients homozygous for the G1961E mutation were enrolled. The entire ABCA4 gene open reading frame, including all exons and flanking intronic sequences, was sequenced in all patients. Phenotype data were obtained from clinical history and examination, fundus photography, infrared imaging, fundus autofluorescence, fluorescein angiography, and spectral domain-optical coherence tomography. Additional functional data were obtained using the full-field electroretinogram, and static or kinetic perimetry.
We evaluated 12 patients homozygous for the G1961E mutation. All patients had evidence of retinal pathology consistent with the range of phenotypes observed in ABCA4 disease. The latest age of onset was recorded at 64 years, in a patient diagnosed initially with age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Of 6 patients in whom severe structural (with/without functional) fundus changes were detected, 5 had additional, heterozygous or homozygous, variants detected in the ABCA4 gene.
Homozygous G1961E mutation in ABCA4 results in a range of retinal pathology. The phenotype usually is at the milder end of the disease spectrum, with severe phenotypes linked to the presence of additional ABCA4 variants. Our report also highlights that milder, late-onset Stargardt disease may be confused with AMD.
There is still debate as to the pathogenicity of homozygous G1961E mutation in the ABCA4 gene. We present 12 patients, homozygous for G1961E mutation, with retinal disease. In 6 cases, additional mutations were detected in ABCA4 and tended to yield more severe disease phenotypes.
PMCID: PMC3394687  PMID: 22661473
25.  Retinal pathology and skin barrier defect in mice carrying a Stargardt disease-3 mutation in elongase of very long chain fatty acids-4 
Molecular Vision  2007;13:258-272.
Autosomal dominant Stargardt disease-3 (STGD3) is caused by mutations in elongase of very long chain fatty acids-4 (ELOVL4). The goal of this study was to generate and characterize heterozygous and homozygous knockin-mice that carry a human STGD3 pathogenic mutation in the mouse Elovl4 gene.
Recombinant Stgd3-knockin mice were generated using a DNA construct which introduced a pathogenic five-base pair deletion and two point mutations in exon 6 of the Elovl4 gene. Stgd3-mouse genotypes were confirmed by Southern blot analysis and expression of wild-type (wt) and mutated Elovl4 mRNAs assayed by nuclease protection assay. The retinal phenotype of heterozygous Stgd3 mice was characterized by morphological studies, elecroretinographic (ERG) analysis and assay of lipofuscin accumulation. Homozygous Stgd3 mice were examined for both retinal and gross morphology. They were also analyzed for skin morphology and skin barrier function, and for epidermal lipid content using high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) combined with mass spectrometry (MS).
The Stgd3 allele codes for a truncated mouse Elovl4 protein, which also contains the same aberrant 8-amino acid C-terminus encoded by the human pathogenic STGD3 allele. Heterozygous Stgd3 mice expressed equal amounts of both wt and mutant Elovl4 mRNAs in the retina, showed no significant changes in retinal morphology, but did show accumulation of lipofuscin and reduced visual function. Homozygous Stgd3 mice were born with an expected Mendelian frequency, without any initial gross anatomical or behavioral abnormalities. By 6-12 h postpartum, they became dehydrated and died. A skin permeability assay detected a defect in epidermal barrier function. Homozygous mutant epidermis expressed a normal content of mutated Elovl4 mRNA and contained all four epidermal cellular layers. HPLC/MS analysis of epidermal lipids revealed the presence of all barrier lipids with the exception of the complete absence of acylceramides, the critical lipids for barrier function of the skin.
The generated Stgd3-knockin mice are a genetic model of human STGD3 and reproduce features of the human disease: accumulation of lipofuscin and reduced visual functions. Homozygous Stgd3 mice showed a complete absence of acylceramides from the epidermis. Their absence suggests a role for Elovl4 in acylceramide synthesis, and in particular, a role in the synthesis of the unique very long chain C30-C40 fatty acids present in skin acylceramides.
PMCID: PMC2633486  PMID: 17356513

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