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Biochemistry - Neuroscience - Ophthalmology

Rhodopsin Mutant P23H Destabilizes Rod Photoreceptor Disk Membranes
Published: Thursday, January 19, 2012
Author: Mohammad Haeri et al.

by Mohammad Haeri, Barry E. Knox

Mutations in rhodopsin cause retinitis pigmentosa in humans and retinal degeneration in a multitude of other animals. We utilized high-resolution live imaging of the large rod photoreceptors from transgenic frogs (Xenopus) to compare the properties of fluorescently tagged rhodopsin, Rho-EGFP, and RhoP23H-EGFP. The mutant was abnormally distributed both in the inner and outer segments (OS), accumulating in the OS to a concentration of ~0.1% compared to endogenous opsin. RhoP23H-EGFP formed dense fluorescent foci, with concentrations of mutant protein up to ten times higher than other regions. Wild-type transgenic Rho-EGFP did not concentrate in OS foci when co-expressed in the same rod with RhoP23H-EGFP. Outer segment regions containing fluorescent foci were refractory to fluorescence recovery after photobleaching, while foci in the inner segment exhibited recovery kinetics similar to OS regions without foci and Rho-EGFP. The RhoP23H-EGFP foci were often in older, more distal OS disks. Electron micrographs of OS revealed abnormal disk membranes, with the regular disk bilayers broken into vesiculotubular structures. Furthermore, we observed similar OS disturbances in transgenic mice expressing RhoP23H, suggesting such structures are a general consequence of mutant expression. Together these results show that mutant opsin disrupts OS disks, destabilizing the outer segment possibly via the formation of aggregates. This may render rods susceptible to mechanical injury or compromise OS function, contributing to photoreceptor loss.