SP4 is a transcription factor abundantly expressed in retina that binds to the GC promoter region of photoreceptor signal transduction genes. We have previously shown that SP4 may be involved in the transcriptional activation of these genes alone or together with other transcription factors such as SP1, neural retina leucine zipper protein (NRL), and cone-rod homeobox gene (CRX). Since mutations in NRL and CRX are involved in inherited retinal degenerations, SP4 was considered a good candidate for mutation screening in patients with this type of diseases. The purpose of this work, therefore, was to investigate possible mutations in SP4 in a cohort of patients affected with different forms of retinal degenerations.
270 unrelated probands with various forms of retinal degeneration including autosomal dominant and autosomal recessive retinitis pigmentosa (RP), autosomal dominant and autosomal recessive cone-rod dystrophy (CRD), and Leber's congenital amaurosis (LCA), were screened for mutations in the SP4 gene. Single strand conformation polymorphism (SSCP) analysis was performed on the six SP4 gene exons including flanking regions followed by direct sequencing of SSCP variants.
Nine different sequence variants were found in 29 patients, four in introns and five in exons. Many of the probands were previously screened for mutations in the genes encoding the α-, β- and γ-subunits of rod-specific cGMP phosphodiesterase (PDE6A, PDE6B, PDE6G), the β-subunit of rod-specific transducin (GNB1), and peripherin/rds (RDS). One group of seven probands of Hispanic background that included five with arRP, one with RP of unknown inheritance (isolate) and 1 with arCRD carried an Asn306Ser mutation in SP4. Of the seven, the isolate case was homozygous and the other 6 heterozygous for the variant. Two arRP and the arCRD probands carried an additional intronic GNB1 variant. DNA from the family members of the arCRD proband could not be obtained, but for the other two families, all affected members and none of the unaffected carried both the SP4 Asn306Ser allele and the GNB1 intronic variant.
If mutations in SP4 do cause retinal degenerative disease, their frequency would be low. While digenic disease with the SP4 Asn306Ser and the GNB1 intronic variant alleles has not been established, neither has it been ruled out. This leaves open the possibility of a cooperative involvement of SP4 and GNB1 in the normal function of the retina.