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J Biol Chem. 2003 Feb 21;278(8):6427-32. Epub 2002 Dec 3.

Unusual thermal and conformational properties of the rhodopsin congenital night blindness mutant Thr-94 --> Ile.

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Centre de Biotecnologia Molecular (CEBIM), Departament d'Enginyeria Quimica, Universitat Polit├Ęcnica de Catalunya, Colom 1, 08222 Terrassa, Catalonia, Spain.


Naturally occurring point mutations in the opsin gene cause the retinal diseases retinitis pigmentosa and congenital night blindness. Although these diseases involve similar mutations in very close locations in rhodopsin, their progression is very different, with retinitis pigmentosa being severe and causing retinal degeneration. We report on the expression and characterization of the recently found T94I mutation associated with congenital night blindness, in the second transmembrane helix or rhodopsin, and mutations at the same site. T94I mutant rhodopsin folded properly and was able to bind 11-cis-retinal to form chromophore, but it showed a blue-shifted visible band at 478 nm and reduced molar extinction coefficient. Furthermore, T94I showed dramatically reduced thermal stability, extremely long lived metarhodopsin II intermediate, and highly increased reactivity toward hydroxylamine in the dark, when compared with wild type rhodopsin. The results are consistent with the location of Thr-94 in close proximity to Glu-113 counterion in the vicinity of the Schiff base linkage and suggest a role for this residue in maintaining the correct dark inactive conformation of the receptor. The reported results, together with previously published data on the other two known congenital night blindness mutants, suggest that the molecular mechanism underlying this disease may not be structural misfolding, as proposed for retinitis pigmentosa mutants, but abnormal functioning of the receptor by decreased thermal stability and/or constitutive activity.

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