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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Sep 2;105(35):12843-8. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0802607105. Epub 2008 Aug 26.

Role of Stargardt-3 macular dystrophy protein (ELOVL4) in the biosynthesis of very long chain fatty acids.

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Department of Cell Biology, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, USA.


Stargardt-like macular dystrophy (STGD3) is a dominantly inherited juvenile macular degeneration that eventually leads to loss of vision. Three independent mutations causing STGD3 have been identified in exon six of a gene named Elongation of very long chain fatty acids 4 (ELOVL4). The ELOVL4 protein was predicted to be involved in fatty acid elongation, although evidence for this and the specific step(s) it may catalyze have remained elusive. Here, using a gain-of-function approach, we provide direct and compelling evidence that ELOVL4 is required for the synthesis of C28 and C30 saturated fatty acids (VLC-FA) and of C28-C38 very long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (VLC-PUFA), the latter being uniquely expressed in retina, sperm, and brain. Rat neonatal cardiomyocytes and a human retinal epithelium cell line (ARPE-19) were transduced with recombinant adenovirus type 5 carrying mouse Elovl4 and supplemented with 24:0, 20:5n3, or 22:5n3. The 24:0 was elongated to 28:0 and 30:0; 20:5n3 and 22:5n3 were elongated to a series of C28-C38 PUFA. Because retinal degeneration is the only known phenotype in STGD3 disease, we propose that reduced VLC-PUFA in the retinas of these patients may be the cause of photoreceptor cell death.

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