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1.  Variations in NPHP5 in Patients With Nonsyndromic Leber Congenital Amaurosis and Senior-Loken Syndrome 
Archives of ophthalmology  2011;129(1):81-87.
To investigate whether mutations in NPHP5 can cause Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) without early-onset renal disease.
DNA samples from 276 individuals with non-syndromic LCA were screened for variations in the NPHP5 gene. Each had been previously screened for mutations in 8 known LCA genes without identifying a disease-causing genotype.
Nine of the 276 LCA probands (3.2%) harbored 2 plausible disease-causing mutations (7 different alleles) in NPHP5. Four of these have been previously reported in patients with Senior-Loken syndrome (F141del, R461X, H506del, and R489X) and 3 are novel (A111del, E346X, and R455X). All 9 patients had severe visual loss from early childhood but none had overt renal disease in the first decade of life. Two patients were diagnosed with nephronophthisis in the second decade. Retinal imaging studies showed retained photoreceptor nuclei and retinal pigment epithelium integrity mainly in the cone-rich central retina, a phenotype with strong similarities to that of NPHP6 disease.
Mutations in NPHP5 can cause LCA without early-onset renal disease. Abnormalities observed in the photoreceptor outer segments (a cilial structure) may explain the severe visual loss in NPHP5-associated LCA.
Clinical Relevance
The persistence of central photoreceptor nuclei despite severe visual loss in NPHP5 disease is encouraging for future therapeutic interventions.
PMCID: PMC3952880  PMID: 21220633
2.  Comprehensive molecular diagnosis of 179 Leber congenital amaurosis and juvenile retinitis pigmentosa patients by targeted next generation sequencing 
Journal of medical genetics  2013;50(10):674-688.
Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) and juvenile retinitis pigmentosa (RP) are inherited retinal diseases that cause early onset severe visual impairment. An accurate molecular diagnosis can refine the clinical diagnosis and allow gene specific treatments.
We developed a capture panel that enriches the exonic DNA of 163 known retinal disease genes. Using this panel, we performed targeted next generation sequencing (NGS) for a large cohort of 179 unrelated and prescreened patients with the clinical diagnosis of LCA or juvenile RP. Systematic NGS data analysis, Sanger sequencing validation, and segregation analysis were utilised to identify the pathogenic mutations. Patients were revisited to examine the potential phenotypic ambiguity at the time of initial diagnosis.
Pathogenic mutations for 72 patients (40%) were identified, including 45 novel mutations. Of these 72 patients, 58 carried mutations in known LCA or juvenile RP genes and exhibited corresponding phenotypes, while 14 carried mutations in retinal disease genes that were not consistent with their initial clinical diagnosis. We revisited patients in the latter case and found that homozygous mutations in PRPH2 can cause LCA/juvenile RP. Guided by the molecular diagnosis, we reclassified the clinical diagnosis in two patients.
We have identified a novel gene and a large number of novel mutations that are associated with LCA/juvenile RP. Our results highlight the importance of molecular diagnosis as an integral part of clinical diagnosis.
PMCID: PMC3932025  PMID: 23847139
3.  Determining consequences of retinal membrane guanylyl cyclase (RetGC1) deficiency in human Leber congenital amaurosis en route to therapy: residual cone-photoreceptor vision correlates with biochemical properties of the mutants 
Human Molecular Genetics  2012;22(1):168-183.
The GUCY2D gene encodes retinal membrane guanylyl cyclase (RetGC1), a key component of the phototransduction machinery in photoreceptors. Mutations in GUCY2D cause Leber congenital amaurosis type 1 (LCA1), an autosomal recessive human retinal blinding disease. The effects of RetGC1 deficiency on human rod and cone photoreceptor structure and function are currently unknown. To move LCA1 closer to clinical trials, we characterized a cohort of patients (ages 6 months—37 years) with GUCY2D mutations. In vivo analyses of retinal architecture indicated intact rod photoreceptors in all patients but abnormalities in foveal cones. By functional phenotype, there were patients with and those without detectable cone vision. Rod vision could be retained and did not correlate with the extent of cone vision or age. In patients without cone vision, rod vision functioned unsaturated under bright ambient illumination. In vitro analyses of the mutant alleles showed that in addition to the major truncation of the essential catalytic domain in RetGC1, some missense mutations in LCA1 patients result in a severe loss of function by inactivating its catalytic activity and/or ability to interact with the activator proteins, GCAPs. The differences in rod sensitivities among patients were not explained by the biochemical properties of the mutants. However, the RetGC1 mutant alleles with remaining biochemical activity in vitro were associated with retained cone vision in vivo. We postulate a relationship between the level of RetGC1 activity and the degree of cone vision abnormality, and argue for cone function being the efficacy outcome in clinical trials of gene augmentation therapy in LCA1.
PMCID: PMC3606011  PMID: 23035049
4.  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
5.  Intervisit Variability of Visual Parameters in Leber Congenital Amaurosis Caused by RPE65 Mutations 
To determine the intervisit variability of kinetic visual fields and visual acuity in patients with Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) caused by mutations in the RPE65 (Retinal Pigment Epithelium–specific protein 65kDa) gene.
RPE65-LCA patients (n = 20; ages 11–40 years) were studied on at least two visits separated by fewer than 120 days using Goldmann visual field (GVF) and ETDRS visual acuity (VA) in a retrospective review. GVFs were quantified by computing the spherical coordinates of their vertices and calculating the solid angle subtended, and reported in normalized solid-angle units (nsu) as a percentage of average normal field extent. Repeatability coefficients were calculated using 95% confidence intervals on log10-converted variables.
Visual field extents in RPE65-LCA spanned a wide range from 4 to 95 nsu. The repeatability coefficient was 0.248 (log10nsu), suggesting cutoffs for significant change (in nsu) of +77% for improvement and −44% for worsening. VA in RPE65-LCA ranged from logMAR = 0.14 to 1.96 (20/40 to 20/1250). The repeatability coefficient was 0.170 (logMAR) (±8.5 ETDRS letters). Comparisons with published studies of ungenotyped retinitis pigmentosa showed that the RPE65-LCA patients had higher variability in kinetic field extent. VA variability in RPE65-LCA fell within reported results for retinitis pigmentosa.
Variability data for GVF and VA are provided to permit interpretation of the significance of increases and decreases of these functional outcomes in ongoing and planned clinical trials of therapy for LCA caused by RPE65 mutations.
RPE65-LCA was studied for intervisit variability of outcome measures currently used in clinical trials. Variability limits for visual acuity were like those in RP, but there was higher variability in kinetic visual fields, suggesting the need for a disease-specific approach.
PMCID: PMC3597193  PMID: 23341016
7.  Visual Acuity Changes in Patients with Leber Congenital Amaurosis (LCA) and Mutations in the CEP290 Gene 
JAMA ophthalmology  2013;131(2):178-182.
To evaluate changes in visual acuity (VA) over time in patients with Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) and mutations in the CEP290 gene.
Forty-three patients with LCA and CEP290 mutations participated.
VA was determined at the initial and most recent visits.
Main Outcome Measures
The best-corrected VA at the initial and most recent visits, and the correlation between age and VA.
At the initial visit, 14 patients had measurable chart VA in the better-seeing eye, 25 patients had non-measurable chart VA, and VA was not assessed in 4 young patients. At the most recent visit, 15 patients had measurable chart VA and 28 had non-measurable chart VA. The average duration between the two visits was 10.4 years (range: 2 to 47 years). For patients with measurable chart VA, the median logMAR value at the initial visit, 0.75 (range: 0.10 to 2.30), and most recent visit, 0.70 (range: 0.10 to 2.00), did not differ significantly (p > 0.05). There was no significant relationship between VA and age.
Patients with LCA and CEP290 mutations had a wide spectrum of VA that was not related to age or length of follow-up. Severe VA loss was observed in most, but not all, patients in the first decade. These data will help clinicians provide counseling on VA changes in patients with CEP290 mutations and could be of value for future treatment trials.
PMCID: PMC3688627  PMID: 23411883
8.  Leber congenital amaurosis caused by Lebercilin (LCA5) mutation: Retained photoreceptors adjacent to retinal disorganization 
Molecular Vision  2009;15:1098-1106.
To determine the retinal disease expression in the rare form of Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) caused by Lebercilin (LCA5) mutation.
Two young unrelated LCA patients, ages six years (P1) and 25 years (P2) at last visit, both with the same homozygous mutation in the LCA5 gene, were evaluated clinically and with noninvasive studies. En face imaging was performed with near-infrared (NIR) reflectance and autofluorescence (AF); cross-sectional retinal images were obtained with optical coherence tomography (OCT). Dark-adapted thresholds were measured in the older patient; and the transient pupillary light reflex was recorded and quantified in both patients.
Both LCA5 patients had light perception vision only, hyperopia, and nystagmus. P1 showed a prominent central island of retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) surrounded by alternating elliptical-appearing areas of decreased and increased pigmentation. Retinal laminar architecture at and near the fovea was abnormal in both patients. Foveal outer nuclear layer (ONL) was present in P1 and P2 but to different degrees. With increasing eccentricity, there was retinal laminar disorganization. Regions of pericentral and midperipheral retina in P1, but not P2, could retain measurable ONL and less laminopathy. P2 had a small central island of perception with >5 log units of sensitivity loss. Pupillary responsiveness was present in both LCA5 patients; the thresholds were abnormally elevated by ≥5.5 log units.
LCA5 patients had evidence of retained photoreceptors mainly in the central retina. Retinal remodeling was present in pericentral regions in both patients. The NIR reflectance and NIR-AF imaging in the younger patient suggested preserved RPE in retinal regions with retained photoreceptors. Detailed phenotype studies in other LCA5 patients with longitudinal follow-up will help determine the feasibility of future intervention in this rare disease.
PMCID: PMC2690955  PMID: 19503738
9.  Gene Therapy for Leber Congenital Amaurosis caused by RPE65 mutations: Safety and Efficacy in Fifteen Children and Adults Followed up to Three Years 
Archives of ophthalmology  2011;130(1):9-24.
To determine safety and efficacy of subretinal gene therapy in the RPE65 form of Leber congenital amaurosis using recombinant adeno-associated virus 2 (rAAV2) carrying human RPE65 gene.
Open-label, dose-escalation Phase I study of 15 patients (11-30 years) evaluated after subretinal injection of rAAV2-hRPE65 to the worse-functioning eye. Five cohorts represented four dose levels and two different injection strategies.
Main Outcome Measures
Primary outcomes were systemic and ocular safety. Secondary outcomes assayed visual function with dark-adapted full-field sensitivity testing and ETDRS visual acuity. Further assays included immune responses to the vector, static visual fields, pupillometry, mobility performance and OCT.
No systemic toxicity was detected; ocular adverse events were related to surgery. Visual function improved in all patients to different degrees; improvements were localized to treated areas. Cone and rod sensitivities increased significantly in study eyes but not control eyes. Minor acuity improvements were recorded in many study and control eyes. Major acuity improvements occurred in study eyes with the lowest entry acuities and parafoveal fixation loci treated with subretinal injections. Other patients with better foveal structure lost retinal thickness and acuity after subfoveal injections.
RPE65-LCA gene therapy is sufficiently safe and substantially efficacious to the extrafoveal retina. There is no benefit and some risk in treating the fovea. No evidence of age-dependent effects was found. Our results point to specific treatment strategies for subsequent phases.
Application to Clinical Practice
Gene therapy for inherited retinal disease has the potential to become a future part of clinical practice.
PMCID: PMC3600816  PMID: 21911650
10.  RPGR-Associated Retinal Degeneration in Human X-Linked RP and a Murine Model 
We investigated the retinal disease due to mutations in the retinitis pigmentosa GTPase regulator (RPGR) gene in human patients and in an Rpgr conditional knockout (cko) mouse model.
XLRP patients with RPGR-ORF15 mutations (n = 35, ages at first visit 5–72 years) had clinical examinations, and rod and cone perimetry. Rpgr-cko mice, in which the proximal promoter and first exon were deleted ubiquitously, were back-crossed onto a BALB/c background, and studied with optical coherence tomography and electroretinography (ERG). Retinal histopathology was performed on a subset.
Different patterns of rod and cone dysfunction were present in patients. Frequently, there were midperipheral losses with residual rod and cone function in central and peripheral retina. Longitudinal data indicated that central rod loss preceded peripheral rod losses. Central cone-only vision with no peripheral function was a late stage. Less commonly, patients had central rod and cone dysfunction, but preserved, albeit abnormal, midperipheral rod and cone vision. Rpgr-cko mice had progressive retinal degeneration detectable in the first months of life. ERGs indicated relatively equal rod and cone disease. At late stages, there was greater inferior versus superior retinal degeneration.
RPGR mutations lead to progressive loss of rod and cone vision, but show different patterns of residual photoreceptor disease expression. Knowledge of the patterns should guide treatment strategies. Rpgr-cko mice had onset of degeneration at relatively young ages and progressive photoreceptor disease. The natural history in this model will permit preclinical proof-of-concept studies to be designed and such studies should advance progress toward human therapy.
Progress in treating canine RPGR disease prompted us to characterize patients with RPGR-ORF15 mutations and provide a detailed natural history of a novel Rpgr-mutant mouse for further proof-of-concept experiments.
PMCID: PMC3422104  PMID: 22807293
11.  Macular Function in Macular Degenerations: Repeatability of Microperimetry as a Potential Outcome Measure for ABCA4-Associated Retinopathy Trials 
Microperimetry is often used to measure macular function in patients with unstable fixation, but repeatability is not well established. This study shows that microperimetric sensitivities can be obtained with a predictable reliability at individual retinal loci independent of disease severity.
To measure macular visual function in patients with unstable fixation, to define the photoreceptor source of this function, and to estimate its test-retest repeatability as a prerequisite to clinical trials.
Patients (n = 38) with ABCA4-associated retinal degeneration (RD) or with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) were studied with retina-tracking microperimetry along the foveo-papillary profile between the fovea and the optic nerve head, and point-by-point test-retest repeatability was estimated. A subset with foveal fixation was also studied with dark-adapted projection perimetry using monochromatic blue and red stimuli along the horizontal meridian.
Macular function in ABCA4-RD patients transitioned from lower sensitivity at the parafovea to higher sensitivity in the perifovea. RP patients had the inverse pattern. Red-on-red microperimetric sensitivities successfully avoided ceiling effects and were highly correlated with absolute sensitivities. Point-by-point test-retest limits (95% confidence intervals) were ±4.2 dB; repeatability was not related to mean sensitivity, eccentricity from the fovea, age, fixation location, or instability. Repeatability was also not related to the local slope of sensitivity and was unchanged in the parapapillary retina.
Microperimetry allows reliable testing of macular function in RD patients without foveal fixation in longitudinal studies evaluating natural disease progression or efficacy of therapeutic trials. A single estimate of test-retest repeatability can be used to determine significant changes in visual function at individual retinal loci within diseased regions that are homogeneous and those that are heterogeneous and also in transition zones at high risk for disease progression.
PMCID: PMC3317423  PMID: 22247458
13.  Autosomal Recessive Retinitis Pigmentosa Caused by Mutations in the MAK Gene 
In a prior study, a new autosomal recessive retinitis pigmentosa gene (male germ cell–associated kinase; MAK) was recently identified. In this report, ophthalmoscopic, electrophysiologic, perimetric, and OCT features of 24 individuals with mutations in this gene are described.
To determine the disease expression in autosomal recessive (ar) retinitis pigmentosa (RP) caused by mutations in the MAK (male germ cell-associated kinase) gene.
Patients with RP and MAK gene mutations (n = 24; age, 32–77 years at first visit) were studied by ocular examination, perimetry, and optical coherence tomography (OCT).
All but one MAK patient were homozygous for an identical truncating mutation in exon 9 and had Ashkenazi Jewish heritage. The carrier frequency of this mutation among 1207 unrelated Ashkenazi control subjects was 1 in 55, making it the most common cause of heritable retinal disease in this population and MAK-associated RP the sixth most common Mendelian disease overall in this group. Visual acuities could be normal into the eighth decade of life. Kinetic fields showed early loss in the superior–temporal quadrant. With more advanced disease, superior and midperipheral function was lost, but the nasal field remained. Only a central island was present at late stages. Pigmentary retinopathy was less prominent in the superior nasal quadrant. Rod-mediated vision was abnormal but detectable in the residual field; all patients had rod>cone dysfunction. Photoreceptor layer thickness was normal centrally but decreased with eccentricity. At the stages studied, there was no evidence of photoreceptor ciliary elongation.
The patterns of disease expression in the MAK form of arRP showed some resemblance to patterns described in autosomal dominant RP, especially the form caused by RP1 mutations. The similarity in phenotypes is of interest, considering that there is experimental evidence of interaction between Mak and RP1 in the photoreceptor cilium.
PMCID: PMC3341124  PMID: 22110072
14.  Retinal Disease Course in Usher Syndrome 1B Due to MYO7A Mutations 
The promise of clinical trials of treatment for Usher syndromes requires moving forward from the classic three clinical subtypes to some greater understanding of how the different USH diseases are expressed. Within this study's cohort of USH1B patients, there were differences in severity of rod disease and photoreceptor cell loss, and the study inquired whether the predicted consequence of the mutant MYO7A alleles could help explain the observed variations in phenotype.
To determine the disease course in Usher syndrome type IB (USH1B) caused by myosin 7A (MYO7A) gene mutations.
USH1B patients (n = 33, ages 2–61) representing 25 different families were studied by ocular examination, kinetic and chromatic static perimetry, dark adaptometry, and optical coherence tomography (OCT). Consequences of the mutant alleles were predicted.
All MYO7A patients had severely abnormal ERGs, but kinetic fields revealed regional patterns of visual loss that suggested a disease sequence. Rod-mediated vision could be lost to different degrees in the first decades of life. Cone vision followed a more predictable and slower decline. Central vision ranged from normal to reduced in the first four decades of life and thereafter was severely abnormal. Dark adaptation kinetics was normal. Photoreceptor layer thickness in a wide region of central retina could differ dramatically between patients of comparable ages; and there were examples of severe losses in childhood as well as relative preservation in patients in the third decade of life. Comparisons were made between the mutant alleles in mild versus more severe phenotypes.
A disease sequence in USH1B leads from generally full but impaired visual fields to residual small central islands. At most disease stages, there was preserved temporal peripheral field, a potential target for early phase clinical trials of gene therapy. From data comparing patients' rod disease in this cohort, the authors speculate that null MYO7A alleles could be associated with milder dysfunction and fewer photoreceptor structural losses at ages when other genotypes show more severe phenotypes.
PMCID: PMC3263772  PMID: 21873662
15.  Cone photoreceptors are the main targets for gene therapy of NPHP5 (IQCB1) or NPHP6 (CEP290) blindness: generation of an all-cone Nphp6 hypomorph mouse that mimics the human retinal ciliopathy 
Human Molecular Genetics  2011;20(7):1411-1423.
Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA), a severe autosomal recessive childhood blindness, is caused by mutations in at least 15 genes. The most common molecular form is a ciliopathy due to NPHP6 (CEP290) mutations and subjects have profound loss of vision. A similarly severe phenotype occurs in the related ciliopathy NPHP5 (IQCB1)-LCA. Recent success of retinal gene therapy in one form of LCA prompted the question whether we know enough about human NPHP5 and NPHP6 disease to plan such treatment. We determined that there was early-onset rapid degeneration of rod photoreceptors in young subjects with these ciliopathies. Rod outer segment (OS) lamination, when detectable, was disorganized. Retinal pigment epithelium lipofuscin accumulation indicated that rods had existed in the past in most subjects. In contrast to early rod losses, the all-cone human fovea in NPHP5- and NPHP6-LCA of all ages retained cone nuclei, albeit with abnormal inner segments and OS. The rd16 mouse, carrying a hypomorphic Nphp6 allele, was a good model of the rod-dominant human extra-foveal retina. Rd16 mice showed normal genesis of photoreceptors, including the formation of cilia, followed by abnormal elaboration of OS and rapid degeneration. To produce a model of the all-cone human fovea in NPHP6-LCA, we generated rd16;Nrl−/− double-mutant mice. They showed substantially retained cone photoreceptors with disproportionate cone function loss, such as in the human disease. NPHP5- and NPHP6-LCA across a wide age spectrum are thus excellent candidates for cone-directed gene augmentation therapy, and the rd16;Nrl−/− mouse is an appropriate model for pre-clinical proof-of-concept studies.
PMCID: PMC3049361  PMID: 21245082
16.  Combining Cep290 and Mkks ciliopathy alleles in mice rescues sensory defects and restores ciliogenesis  
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2012;122(4):1233-1245.
Cilia are highly specialized microtubule-based organelles that have pivotal roles in numerous biological processes, including transducing sensory signals. Defects in cilia biogenesis and transport cause pleiotropic human ciliopathies. Mutations in over 30 different genes can lead to cilia defects, and complex interactions exist among ciliopathy-associated proteins. Mutations of the centrosomal protein 290 kDa (CEP290) lead to distinct clinical manifestations, including Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA), a hereditary cause of blindness due to photoreceptor degeneration. Mice homozygous for a mutant Cep290 allele (Cep290rd16 mice) exhibit LCA-like early-onset retinal degeneration that is caused by an in-frame deletion in the CEP290 protein. Here, we show that the domain deleted in the protein encoded by the Cep290rd16 allele directly interacts with another ciliopathy protein, MKKS. MKKS mutations identified in patients with the ciliopathy Bardet-Biedl syndrome disrupted this interaction. In zebrafish embryos, combined subminimal knockdown of mkks and cep290 produced sensory defects in the eye and inner ear. Intriguingly, combinations of Cep290rd16 and Mkksko alleles in mice led to improved ciliogenesis and sensory functions compared with those of either mutant alone. We propose that altered association of CEP290 and MKKS affects the integrity of multiprotein complexes at the cilia transition zone and basal body. Amelioration of the sensory phenotypes caused by specific mutations in one protein by removal of an interacting domain/protein suggests a possible novel approach for treating human ciliopathies.
PMCID: PMC3314468  PMID: 22446187
17.  The Usher 1B protein, MYO7A, is required for normal localization and function of the visual retinoid cycle enzyme, RPE65 
Human Molecular Genetics  2011;20(13):2560-2570.
Mutations in the MYO7A gene cause a deaf-blindness disorder, known as Usher syndrome 1B.  In the retina, the majority of MYO7A is in the retinal pigmented epithelium (RPE), where many of the reactions of the visual retinoid cycle take place.  We have observed that the retinas of Myo7a-mutant mice are resistant to acute light damage. In exploring the basis of this resistance, we found that Myo7a-mutant mice have lower levels of RPE65, the RPE isomerase that has a key role in the retinoid cycle.  We show for the first time that RPE65 normally undergoes a light-dependent translocation to become more concentrated in the central region of the RPE cells.  This translocation requires MYO7A, so that, in Myo7a-mutant mice, RPE65 is partly mislocalized in the light.  RPE65 is degraded more quickly in Myo7a-mutant mice, perhaps due to its mislocalization, providing a plausible explanation for its lower levels.  Following a 50–60% photobleach, Myo7a-mutant retinas exhibited increased all-trans-retinyl ester levels during the initial stages of dark recovery, consistent with a deficiency in RPE65 activity.  Lastly, MYO7A and RPE65 were co-immunoprecipitated from RPE cell lysate by antibodies against either of the proteins, and the two proteins were partly colocalized, suggesting a direct or indirect interaction.  Together, the results support a role for MYO7A in the translocation of RPE65, illustrating the involvement of a molecular motor in the spatiotemporal organization of the retinoid cycle in vision.
PMCID: PMC3110002  PMID: 21493626
18.  Subconjunctivally Implantable Hydrogels with Degradable and Thermoresponsive Properties for Sustained Release of Insulin to the Retina 
Biomaterials  2009;30(33):6541-6547.
The objective of this work is to develop subconjunctivally implantable, biodegradable hydrogels for sustained release of intact insulin to the retina to prevent and treat retinal neurovascular degeneration such as diabetic retinopathy. The hydrogels are synthesized by UV photopolymerization of N-isopropylacrylamide (NIPAAm) monomer and a dextran macromer containing multiple hydrolytically degradable oligolactate-(2-hydroxyetheyl methacrylate) units (Dex-lactateHEMA) in 25:75 (v:v) ethanol:water mixture solvent. Insulin is loaded into the hydrogels during the synthesis process with loading efficiency up to 98%. The hydrogels can release biologically active insulin in vitro for at least one week and the release kinetics can be modulated by varying the ratio between NIPAAm and Dex-lactateHEMA and altering the physical size of the hydrogels. The hydrogels are not toxic to R28 retinal neuron cells in culture medium with 100% cell viability. The hydrogels can be implanted under the conjunctiva without causing adverse effects to the retina based on hematoxylin and eosin stain, immunostaining for microglial cell activation, and electroretinography. These subconjunctivally implantable hydrogels have potential for long-term periocular delivery of insulin or other drugs to treat diabetic retinopathy and other retinal diseases.
PMCID: PMC2753764  PMID: 19709741
hydrogels; sustained release; subcojunctival implantation; retina; diabetic retinopathy; retinal diseases
19.  Harmonin in the Murine Retina and the Retinal Phenotypes of Ush1c-Mutant Mice and Human USH1C 
To investigate the expression of harmonin in the mouse retina, test for ultrastructural and physiological mutant phenotypes in the retina of an Ush1c mutant mouse, and define in detail the retinal phenotype in human USH1C.
Antibodies were generated against harmonin. Harmonin isoform distribution was examined by Western blot analysis and immunocytochemistry. Retinas of deaf circler (dfcr) mice, which possess mutant Ush1c, were analyzed by microscopy and electroretinography (ERG). Two siblings with homozygous 238_239insC (R80fs) USH1C mutations were studied with ERG, perimetry, and optical coherence tomography (OCT).
Harmonin isoforms a and c, but not b are expressed in the retina. Harmonin is concentrated in the photoreceptor synapse where the majority is postsynaptic. Dfcr mice do not undergo retinal degeneration and have normal synaptic ultrastructure and ERGs. USH1C patients had abnormal rod and cone ERGs. Rod- and cone-mediated sensitivities and retinal laminar architecture were normal across 50°–60° of visual field. A transition zone to severely abnormal function and structure was present at greater eccentricities.
The largest harmonin isoforms are not expressed in the retina. A major retinal concentration of harmonin is in the photoreceptor synapses, both pre- and post-synaptically. The dfcr mouse retina is unaffected by its mutant Ush1c. Patients with USH1C retained regions of normal central retina surrounded by degeneration. Perhaps the human disease is simply more aggressive than that in the mouse. Alternatively, the dfcr mouse may be a model for nonsyndromic deafness, due to the nonpathologic effect of its mutation on the retinal isoforms.
PMCID: PMC2893298  PMID: 19324851
20.  Loss of cone photoreceptors caused by chromophore depletion is partially prevented by the artificial chromophore pro-drug, 9-cis-retinyl acetate 
Human Molecular Genetics  2009;18(12):2277-2287.
Inactivating mutations in the retinoid isomerase (RPE65) or lecithin:retinol acyltransferase (LRAT) genes cause Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA), a severe visual impairment in humans. Both enzymes participate in the retinoid (visual) cycle, the enzymatic pathway that continuously generates 11-cis-retinal, the chromophore of visual pigments in rod and cone photoreceptor cells needed for vision. We investigated human RPE65–LCA patients and mice with visual cycle abnormalities to determine the impact of chronic chromophore deprivation on cones. Young patients with RPE65 mutations showed foveal cone loss along with shortened inner and outer segments of remaining cones; cone cell loss also was dramatic in young mice lacking Rpe65 or Lrat gene function. To selectively evaluate cone pathophysiology, we eliminated the rod contribution to electroretinographic (ERG) responses by generating double knockout mice lacking Lrat or Rpe65 together with an inactivated rod-specific G protein transducin gene (Gnat1−/−). Cone ERG responses were absent in Gnat1−/−Lrat−/− mice which also showed progressive degeneration of cones. Cone ERG responses in Gnat1−/−Rpe65−/− mice were markedly reduced and declined over weeks. Treatment of these mice with the artificial chromophore pro-drug, 9-cis-retinyl acetate, partially protected inferior retinal cones as evidenced by improved ERGs and retinal histochemistry. Gnat1−/− mice chronically treated with retinylamine, a selective inhibitor of RPE65, also showed a decline in the number of cones that was ameliorated by 9-cis-retinyl acetate. These results suggest that chronic lack of chromophore leads to progressive loss of cones in mice and humans. Therapy for LCA patients should be geared toward early adequate delivery of chromophore to cone photoreceptors.
PMCID: PMC2685761  PMID: 19339306
21.  Retinal Pigment Epithelium Defects in Humans and Mice with Mutations in MYO7A: Imaging Melanosome-Specific Autofluorescence 
Usher syndrome (USH) is a genetically heterogeneous disease with autosomal recessive deafness and blindness. Gene therapy is under development for use in the most common genetic variant of USH1, USH1B, which is caused by mutations in the MYO7A gene. This study was undertaken to identify an imaging method for noninvasively monitoring the RPE component of the USH1B disease.
NIR-autofluorescence (NIR-AF) was examined in USH1B patients with scanning laser ophthalmoscopy, and retinal thickness with spectral-domain optical coherence tomography. Myo7a-null mouse retinas and purified RPE melanosomes were analyzed by spectral deconvolution confocal microscopy.
In USH1B patients, NIR-AF was normal in regions of retained photoreceptors and abnormal in regions lacking photoreceptors. Subtle changes in NIR-AF were associated with intermediate photoreceptor loss. In ex vivo mouse retinas, the NIR-AF source was traced to the melanosomes in the RPE and choroid. Purified RPE melanosomes emitted the same signal. Fluorophores, excited by long-wavelength light, were evident throughout the apical RPE of WT mouse eyecups. In Myo7a-null eyecups, these fluorophores had a more restricted distribution. They were absent from the apical processes of the RPE, thus correlating with the melanosome localization defects described previously by conventional microscopy.
The data indicate that melanosomes in the RPE and choroid are the dominant source of NIR-AF from the posterior region of the eye. NIR-AF is a novel tool that provides sensitive and label-free imaging of the retina and RPE and is currently the only melanosome-specific, noninvasive technique for monitoring RPE disease in new therapeutic initiatives for retinal degenerations.
PMCID: PMC2884175  PMID: 19324852
22.  ABCA4 disease progression and a proposed strategy for gene therapy 
Human Molecular Genetics  2008;18(5):931-941.
Autosomal recessive retinal diseases caused by mutations in the ABCA4 gene are being considered for gene replacement therapy. All individuals with ABCA4-disease show macular degeneration, but only some are thought to progress to retina-wide blindness. It is currently not predictable if or when specific ABCA4 genotypes will show extramacular disease, and how fast it will progress thereafter. Early clinical trials of focal subretinal gene therapy will aim to arrest disease progression in the extramacular retina. In 66 individuals with known disease-causing ABCA4 alleles, we defined retina-wide disease expression by measuring rod- and cone-photoreceptor-mediated vision. Serial measurements over a mean period of 8.7 years were consistent with a model wherein a normal plateau phase of variable length was followed by initiation of retina-wide disease that progressed exponentially. Once initiated, the mean rate of disease progression was 1.1 log/decade for rods and 0.45 log/decade for cones. Spatio-temporal progression of disease could be described as the sum of two components, one with a central-to-peripheral gradient and the other with a uniform retina-wide pattern. Estimates of the age of disease initiation were used as a severity metric and contributions made by each ABCA4 allele were predicted. One-third of the non-truncating alleles were found to cause more severe disease than premature truncations supporting the existence of a pathogenic component beyond simple loss of function. Genotype-based inclusion/exclusion criteria and prediction of the age of retina-wide disease initiation will be invaluable for selecting appropriate candidates for clinical trials in ABCA4 disease.
PMCID: PMC2640207  PMID: 19074458
23.  Loss of the Metalloprotease ADAM9 Leads to Cone-Rod Dystrophy in Humans and Retinal Degeneration in Mice 
Cone-rod dystrophy (CRD) is an inherited progressive retinal dystrophy affecting the function of cone and rod photoreceptors. By autozygosity mapping, we identified null mutations in the ADAM metallopeptidase domain 9 (ADAM9) gene in four consanguineous families with recessively inherited early-onset CRD. We also found reduced photoreceptor responses in Adam9 knockout mice, previously reported to be asymptomatic. In 12-month-old knockout mice, photoreceptors appear normal, but the apical processes of the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells are disorganized and contact between photoreceptor outer segments (POSs) and the RPE apical surface is compromised. In 20-month-old mice, there is clear evidence of progressive retinal degeneration with disorganized POS and thinning of the outer nuclear layer (ONL) in addition to the anomaly at the POS-RPE junction. RPE basal deposits and macrophages were also apparent in older mice. These findings therefore not only identify ADAM9 as a CRD gene but also identify a form of pathology wherein retinal disease first manifests at the POS-RPE junction.
PMCID: PMC2681008  PMID: 19409519
24.  Defining the Residual Vision in Leber Congenital Amaurosis Caused by RPE65 Mutations 
To quantify the residual vision in Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) caused by RPE65 mutations.
Patients with RPE65-LCA (n = 30; ages, 4–55) were studied using electroretinography (ERG), full-field stimulus testing (FST), kinetic and static threshold perimetry, and optical coherence tomography (OCT).
All patients with RPE65-LCA had abnormal ERGs even at the youngest ages. There were no detectable rod ERGs and only reduced cone ERGs. By chromatic FST, however, 59% of patients had measurable rod- and cone-mediated function. The remaining 41% had only cone-mediated function. Extent of kinetic fields varied widely in the first two decades of life but, by the end of the third decade, there was very little measurable field. Regional patterns of visual loss were evident using dark-adapted static threshold perimetry. The mildest dysfunctions showed relatively homogeneous sensitivity loss beyond the central field. Mid-peripheral dysfunction was a later feature; finally, only central and peripheral islands remained. Colocalized measures of visual function and retinal structure by OCT showed that visual function was detectable when a photoreceptor layer was detectable.
Residual rod as well as cone function is detectable in RPE65-LCA. The finding of different regional patterns of visual loss in these patients suggests that the optimal retinal site(s) for subretinal gene delivery to achieve efficacy are likely to change with disease progression.
PMCID: PMC2731629  PMID: 19117922
25.  Photoreceptor Layer Topography in Children with Leber Congenital Amaurosis Caused by RPE65 Mutations 
To study the topography of photoreceptor loss early in the course of Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) caused by RPE65 mutations.
Young patients with RPE65-LCA (n = 9; ages, 6–17 years) were studied with optical coherence tomography (OCT) in a wide region of central retina. Outer nuclear layer (ONL) thickness was mapped topographically and compared with that in normal subjects and in older patients with RPE65-LCA.
Photoreceptor layer topography was abnormal in all young patients with RPE65-LCA. Foveal and extrafoveal ONL was reduced in most patients. There were interindividual differences, with ONL thicknesses at most retinal locations ranging from near the detectability limit to a significant fraction of normal. These differences were not clearly related to age. In most patients, there was a thinner ONL inferior to the fovea compared with that in the superior retina. Summary maps obtained by aligning and averaging photoreceptor topography across all young patients showed a relative preservation of ONL in the superior-temporal and temporal pericentral retina. These retinal regions also showed the greatest magnitude of interindividual variation.
Photoreceptor loss in the foveal and extrafoveal retina was prominent, even in the youngest patients studied. Differences in the topography of residual photoreceptors in children with RPE65-LCA suggest that it may be advisable to use individualized ONL mapping to guide the location of sub-retinal injections for gene therapy and thereby maximize the potential for efficacy.
PMCID: PMC2731624  PMID: 18539930

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