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J Neurosci. 2019 Feb 20;39(8):1347-1364. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1761-18.2018. Epub 2018 Dec 20.

ARL13B, a Joubert Syndrome-Associated Protein, Is Critical for Retinogenesis and Elaboration of Mouse Photoreceptor Outer Segments.

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Department of Ophthalmology and Neuroscience.
Department of Biochemistry.
Eye Research Institute, Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan 48309.
Department of Ophthalmology and Neuroscience,
WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia 26506, and.


Mutations in the Joubert syndrome-associated small GTPase ARL13B are linked to photoreceptor impairment and vision loss. To determine the role of ARL13B in the development, function, and maintenance of ciliated photoreceptors, we generated a pan-retina knock-out (Six3-Cre) and a rod photoreceptor-specific inducible conditional knock-out (Pde6g-CreERT2) of ARL13B using murine models. Embryonic deletion of ARL13B led to defects in retinal development with reduced cell proliferation. In the absence of ARL13B, photoreceptors failed to develop outer segment (OS) membranous discs and axonemes, resulting in loss of function and rapid degeneration. Additionally, the majority of photoreceptor basal bodies did not dock properly at the apical edge of the inner segments. The removal of ARL13B in adult rod photoreceptor cells after maturation of OS resulted in loss of photoresponse and vesiculation in the OS. Before changes in photoresponse, removal of ARL13B led to mislocalization of rhodopsin, prenylated phosphodiesterase-6 (PDE6), and intraflagellar transport protein-88 (IFT88). Our findings show that ARL13B is required at multiple stages of retinogenesis, including early postnatal proliferation of retinal progenitor cells, development of photoreceptor cilia, and morphogenesis of photoreceptor OS discs regardless of sex. Last, our results establish a need for ARL13B in photoreceptor maintenance and protein trafficking.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT The normal development of photoreceptor cilia is essential to create functional, organized outer segments with stacked membrane discs that house the phototransduction proteins necessary for sight. Our study identifies a complex role for ARL13B, a small GTPase linked to Joubert syndrome and visual impairment, at various stages of photoreceptor development. Loss of ARL13B led to defects in retinal proliferation, altered placement of basal bodies crucial for components of the cilium (transition zone) to emanate, and absence of photoreceptor-stacked discs. These defects led to extinguished visual response and dysregulated protein trafficking. Our findings show the complex role ARL13B plays in photoreceptor development, viability, and function. Our study accounts for the severe retinal impairment observed in ARL13B-linked Joubert syndrome patients.


IFT; Joubert syndrome; blindness; outer segment; photoreceptors; protein trafficking

[Available on 2019-08-20]

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