by Debra A. Thompson, Naheed W. Khan, Mohammad I. Othman, Bo Chang, Lin Jia, Garrett Grahek, Zhijian Wu, Suja Hiriyanna, Jacob Nellissery, Tiansen Li, Hemant Khanna, Peter Colosi, Anand Swaroop, John R. Heckenlively
Animal models of human disease are an invaluable component of studies aimed at understanding disease pathogenesis and therapeutic possibilities. Mutations in the gene encoding retinitis pigmentosa GTPase regulator (RPGR) are the most common cause of X-linked retinitis pigmentosa (XLRP) and are estimated to cause 20% of all retinal dystrophy cases. A majority of RPGR mutations are present in ORF15, the purine-rich terminal exon of the predominant splice-variant expressed in retina. Here we describe the genetic and phenotypic characterization of the retinal degeneration 9 (Rd9) strain of mice, a naturally occurring animal model of XLRP. Rd9 mice were found to carry a 32-base-pair duplication within ORF15 that causes a shift in the reading frame that introduces a premature-stop codon. Rpgr ORF15 transcripts, but not protein, were detected in retinas from Rd9/Y male mice that exhibited retinal pathology, including pigment loss and slowly progressing decrease in outer nuclear layer thickness. The levels of rhodopsin and transducin in rod outer segments were also decreased, and M-cone opsin appeared mislocalized within cone photoreceptors. In addition, electroretinogram (ERG) a- and b-wave amplitudes of both Rd9/Y male and Rd9/Rd9 female mice showed moderate gradual reduction that continued to 24 months of age. The presence of multiple retinal features that correlate with findings in individuals with XLRP identifies Rd9 as a valuable model for use in gaining insight into ORF15-associated disease progression and pathogenesis, as well as accelerating the development and testing of therapeutic strategies for this common form of retinal dystrophy.