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Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2000 May;41(6):1546-53.

Characterization of rhodopsin mis-sorting and constitutive activation in a transgenic rat model of retinitis pigmentosa.

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Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley, USA.



To determine the extent to which rhodopsin mis-sorting and constitutive activation of the phototransduction cascade contribute to retinal degeneration in a transgenic rat model of retinitis pigmentosa.


Retinas from transgenic rats expressing truncated rhodopsin (Ser334ter) were examined by light and electron microscopic immunocytochemistry at several time points. Retinal degeneration in transgenic rats raised in darkness was evaluated by quantification of outer nuclear layer thickness and by electroretinography.


Mutant rhodopsin was found at inappropriately high levels in the plasma membrane and cytoplasm of Ser334ter rat photoreceptors. When the cell death rate was high this mis-sorting was severe, but mis-sorting attenuated greatly at later stages of degeneration, as the cell death rate decreased. The distributions of two other outer segment proteins (the cGMP-gated channel and peripherin) were examined and found to be sorted normally within the photoreceptors of these rats. Raising Ser334ter transgenic rats in darkness resulted in minimal rescue from retinal degeneration.


Because dark rearing Ser334ter rats results in little rescue, it is concluded that constitutive activation of the phototransduction cascade does not contribute significantly to photoreceptor cell death in this rat model. The nature of the rhodopsin sorting defect and the correlation between the severity of mis-sorting and rate of cell death indicate that truncated rhodopsin may cause apoptosis by interfering with normal cellular machinery in the post-Golgi transport pathway or in the plasma membrane.

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