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J Biol Chem. 2001 Apr 13;276(15):12091-9. Epub 2000 Dec 4.

Retinitis pigmentosa GTPase regulator (RPGRr)-interacting protein is stably associated with the photoreceptor ciliary axoneme and anchors RPGR to the connecting cilium.

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Berman-Gund Laboratory for the Study of Retinal Degenerations, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA.


Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is a blinding retinal disease in which the photoreceptor cells degenerate. Mutations in the gene for retinitis pigmentosa GTPase regulator (RPGR) are a frequent cause of RP. The function of RPGR is not well understood, but it is thought to be a putative guanine nucleotide exchange factor for an unknown G protein. Ablation of the RPGR gene in mice suggested a role in maintaining the polarized distribution of opsin across the cilia. To investigate its function, we used a protein interaction screen to identify candidate proteins that may interact physiologically with RPGR. One such protein, designated RPGR-interacting protein (RPGRIP), is expressed specifically in rod and cone photoreceptors. It consists of an N-terminal region predicted to form coiled coil structures linked to a C-terminal tail that binds RPGR. In vivo, both proteins co-localize in the photoreceptor connecting cilia. RPGRIP is stably associated with the ciliary axoneme independent of RPGR and is resistant to extraction under conditions that partially solubilized other cytoskeletal components. When over-expressed in heterologous cell lines, RPGRIP appears in insoluble punctate and filamentous structures. These data suggest that RPGRIP is a structural component of the ciliary axoneme, and one of its functions is to anchor RPGR within the cilium. RPGRIP is the only protein known to localize specifically in the photoreceptor connecting cilium. As such, it is a candidate gene for human photoreceptor disease. The tissue-specific expression of RPGRIP explains why mutations in the ubiquitously expressed RPGR confer a photoreceptor-specific phenotype.

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