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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Nov 11;100(23):13662-7. Epub 2003 Oct 24.

Isorhodopsin rather than rhodopsin mediates rod function in RPE65 knock-out mice.

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Department of Ophthalmology, Medical University of South Carolina, 167 Ashley Avenue, Charleston, SC 29425, USA.


The chromophore of visual pigments is 11-cis-retinal and, thus, in its absence, opsin is not photosensitive and no visual function exists. However, in the RPE65 knockout (Rpe65-/-) mouse, where synthesis of 11-cis-retinal does not occur, a minimal visual response from rod photoreceptors is obtained. We have examined if an alternative pathway exists for cis-retinoid generation in the absence of RPE65. Cyclic-light-reared, 2-month-old Rpe65-/- mice were placed in complete darkness. No exogenous retinoids were administered. After 4 weeks, enhanced a- and b-wave amplitudes were obtained, increasing >10-fold for the a-wave and >3-fold for the b-wave as compared with cyclic-light-reared Rpe65-/- mice. Visual-pigment levels increased to approximately 10 pmol per retina, compared with no measurable pigment for cyclic-light-reared Rpe65-/- mice. The lambdamax of the isolated pigment was 487 nm, characteristic for isorhodopsin. Retinoid extractions confirmed the presence of 9-cis-retinal and the absence of 11-cis-retinal. Once the Rpe65-/- mice were returned to cyclic light, within 48 h the electroretinogram function returned to levels found in Rpe65-/- mice maintained in cyclic light. This dark-mediated pathway is also operational in older animals, because 13-month-old Rpe65-/- mice kept in prolonged darkness (12 weeks) had increased isorhodopsin levels and electroretinogram a- and b-wave amplitudes. These studies demonstrate that a pathway exists in the eye for the generation of 9-cis-retinal that is independent of RPE65 and light.

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