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J Biol Chem. 2012 Jul 13;287(29):24662-70. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M112.354514. Epub 2012 May 23.

Reduction of all-trans-retinal in vertebrate rod photoreceptors requires the combined action of RDH8 and RDH12.

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Department of Ophthalmology, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina 29425, USA.


In vertebrate rod cells, retinoid dehydrogenases/reductases (RDHs) are critical for reducing the reactive aldehyde all-trans-retinal that is released by photoactivated rhodopsin, to all-trans-retinol (vitamin A). Previous studies have shown that RDH8 localizes to photoreceptor outer segments and is a strong candidate for performing this role. However, RDH12 function in the photoreceptor inner segments is also key, because loss of function mutations cause retinal degeneration in some forms of Leber congenital amaurosis. To investigate the in vivo roles of RDH8 and RDH12, we used fluorescence imaging to examine all-trans-retinol production in single isolated rod cells from wild-type mice and knock-out mice lacking either one or both RDHs. Outer segments of rods deficient in Rdh8 failed to reduce all-trans-retinal, but those deficient in Rdh12 were unaffected. Following exposure to light, a leak of retinoids from outer to inner segments was detected in rods from both wild-type and knock-out mice. In cells lacking Rdh8 or Rdh12, this leak was mainly all-trans-retinal. Wild-type rods incubated with all-trans-retinal reduced moderate loads of retinal within the cell interior, but this ability was lost by cells deficient in Rdh8 or Rdh12. Our findings are consistent with localization of RDH8 to the outer segment where it provides most of the activity needed to reduce all-trans-retinal generated by the light response. In contrast, RDH12 in inner segments can protect vital cell organelles against aldehyde toxicity caused by an intracellular leak of all-trans-retinal, as well as other aldehydes originating both inside and outside the cell.

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