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J Biol Chem. 2002 Sep 13;277(37):34150-60. Epub 2002 Jun 28.

A rhodopsin mutant linked to autosomal dominant retinitis pigmentosa is prone to aggregate and interacts with the ubiquitin proteasome system.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


The inherited retinal degenerations are typified by retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a heterogeneous group of inherited disorders that causes the destruction of photoreceptor cells, the retinal pigmented epithelium, and choroid. This group of blinding conditions affects over 1.5 million persons worldwide. Approximately 30-40% of human autosomal dominant (AD) RP is caused by dominantly inherited missense mutations in the rhodopsin gene. Here we show that P23H, the most frequent RP mutation in American patients, renders rhodopsin extremely prone to form high molecular weight oligomeric species in the cytoplasm of transfected cells. Aggregated P23H accumulates in aggresomes, which are pericentriolar inclusion bodies that require an intact microtubule cytoskeleton to form. Using fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET), we observe that P23H aggregates in the cytoplasm even at extremely low expression levels. Our data show that the P23H mutation destabilizes the protein and targets it for degradation by the ubiquitin proteasome system. P23H is stabilized by proteasome inhibitors and by co-expression of a dominant negative form of ubiquitin. We show that expression of P23H, but not wild-type rhodopsin, results in a generalized impairment of the ubiquitin proteasome system, suggesting a mechanism for photoreceptor degeneration that links RP to a broad class of neurodegenerative diseases.

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