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J Biol Chem. 2002 May 24;277(21):19173-82. Epub 2002 Mar 15.

Recovery of visual functions in a mouse model of Leber congenital amaurosis.

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Department of Ophthalmology, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA.


The visual process is initiated by the photoisomerization of 11-cis-retinal to all-trans-retinal. For sustained vision the 11-cis-chromophore must be regenerated from all-trans-retinal. This requires RPE65, a dominant retinal pigment epithelium protein. Disruption of the RPE65 gene results in massive accumulation of all-trans-retinyl esters in the retinal pigment epithelium, lack of 11-cis-retinal and therefore rhodopsin, and ultimately blindness. We reported previously (Van Hooser, J. P., Aleman, T. S., He, Y. G., Cideciyan, A. V., Kuksa, V., Pittler, S. J., Stone, E. M., Jacobson, S. G., and Palczewski, K. (2000) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 97, 8623-8628) that in Rpe65-/- mice, oral administration of 9-cis-retinal generated isorhodopsin, a rod photopigment, and restored light sensitivity to the electroretinogram. Here, we provide evidence that early intervention by 9-cis-retinal administration significantly attenuated retinal ester accumulation and supported rod retinal function for more than 6 months post-treatment. In single cell recordings rod light sensitivity was shown to be a function of the amount of regenerated isorhodopsin; high doses restored rod responses with normal sensitivity and kinetics. Highly attenuated residual rod function was observed in untreated Rpe65-/- mice. This rod function is likely a consequence of low efficiency production of 11-cis-retinal by photo-conversion of all-trans-retinal in the retina as demonstrated by retinoid analysis. These studies show that pharmacological intervention produces long lasting preservation of visual function in dark-reared Rpe65-/- mice and may be a useful therapeutic strategy in recovering vision in humans diagnosed with Leber congenital amaurosis caused by mutations in the RPE65 gene, an inherited group of early onset blinding and retinal degenerations.

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