Send to

Choose Destination
Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2003 Feb;44(2):826-38.

An RCS-like retinal dystrophy phenotype in mer knockout mice.

Author information

Department of Ophthalmology, Beckman Vision Center, University of California, San Francisco, California 94143, USA.



To determine whether mice that are homozygous for a targeted disruption of the Mer receptor tyrosine kinase gene (mer(kd)) manifest a retinal dystrophy phenotype similar to RCS rats, which carry a mutation in the orthologous gene MERTK:


Eyes of mer(kd) and C57BL/6 wild-type (WT) mice were examined by light and electron microscopy, whole-eye rhodopsin measurement, and Ganzfeld electroretinography (ERG).


The mer(kd) mice showed rapid, progressive degeneration of the photoreceptors (PRs). Features of the phenotype common to mer(kd) mice and RCS rats included the absence or near absence of phagosomes in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) at the peak of outer segment (OS) disc shedding, accumulation of debris and whorls of membranes at the RPE-OS interface, transient supernormal rhodopsin content and OS lengths, the presence of OS vacuoles beginning at early ages, and a relatively slow removal of pyknotic PR nuclei. Most PRs were missing, and OS debris was removed by approximately postnatal day (P)45. Scotopic ERG responses were lower than age-matched WT responses and declined with PR loss. Photopic responses were preserved better than scotopic responses, corresponding with preferential cone preservation as judged histologically. ERG amplitudes were usually unmeasurable beyond P40, although a small-amplitude scotopic threshold response (STR) could still be elicited at P253 in some mice when only scattered PR nuclei remained.


Ablation of Mer function in mer(kd) mice results in a retinal phenotype almost identical with that of RCS rats. The similarity in phenotypes between the two rodent models suggests that an RPE phagocytic defect is a feature of all types of retinal degeneration caused by loss of function of Mer tyrosine kinase, perhaps including mutations in human MERTK.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Loading ...
Support Center