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Nat Chem Biol. 2013 Jan;9(1):30-6. doi: 10.1038/nchembio.1114. Epub 2012 Nov 11.

Identification of DES1 as a vitamin A isomerase in Müller glial cells of the retina.

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Jules Stein Eye Institute, University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine, Los Angeles, California, USA.


Absorption of a light particle by an opsin-pigment causes photoisomerization of its retinaldehyde chromophore. Restoration of light sensitivity to the resulting apo-opsin requires chemical re-isomerization of the photobleached chromophore. This is carried out by a multistep enzyme pathway called the visual cycle. Accumulating evidence suggests the existence of an alternative visual cycle for regenerating opsins in daylight. Here we identified dihydroceramide desaturase-1 (DES1) as a retinol isomerase and an excellent candidate for isomerase-2 in this alternative pathway. DES1 is expressed in retinal Müller cells, where it coimmunoprecipitates with cellular retinaldehyde binding protein (CRALBP). Adenoviral gene therapy with DES1 partially rescued the biochemical and physiological phenotypes in Rpe65(-/-) mice lacking isomerohydrolase (isomerase-1). Knockdown of DES1 expression by RNA interference concordantly reduced isomerase-2 activity in cultured Müller cells. Purified DES1 had very high isomerase-2 activity in the presence of appropriate cofactors, suggesting that DES1 by itself is sufficient for isomerase activity.

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