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Mutations in the gene Centrosomal Protein 290 kDa (CEP290) result in multiple ciliopathies ranging from the neonatal lethal disorder Meckel-Gruber Syndrome to multi-systemic disorders such as Joubert Syndrome and Bardet-Biedl Syndrome to nonsyndromic diseases like Leber Congenital Amaurosis (LCA) and retinitis pigmentosa. Results from model organisms and human genetics studies, have suggest that mutations in genes encoding protein components of the transition zone (TZ) and other cilia-associated proteins can function as genetic modifiers and be a source for CEP290 pleiotropy. We investigated the zebrafish cep290fh297/fh297 mutant, which encodes a nonsense mutation (p.Q1217*). This mutant is viable as adults, exhibits scoliosis, and undergoes a slow, progressive cone degeneration. The cep290fh297/fh297 mutants showed partial mislocalization of the transmembrane protein rhodopsin but not of the prenylated proteins rhodopsin kinase (GRK1) or the rod transducin subunit GNB1. Surprisingly, photoreceptor degeneration did not trigger proliferation of Müller glia, but proliferation of rod progenitors in the outer nuclear layer was significantly increased. To determine if heterozygous mutations in other cilia genes could exacerbate retinal degeneration, we bred cep290fh297/fh297 mutants to arl13b, ahi1, and cc2d2a mutant zebrafish lines. While cep290fh297/fh297 mutants lacking a single allele of these genes did not exhibit accelerated photoreceptor degeneration, loss of one alleles of arl13b or ahi1 reduced visual performance in optokinetic response assays at 5 days post fertilization. Our results indicate that the cep290fh297/fh297 mutant is a useful model to study the role of genetic modifiers on photoreceptor degeneration in zebrafish and to explore how progressive photoreceptor degeneration influences regeneration in adult zebrafish.


Emma M Lessieur, Ping Song, Gabrielle C Nivar, Ellen M Piccillo, Joseph Fogerty, Richard Rozic, Brian D Perkins. Ciliary genes arl13b, ahi1 and cc2d2a differentially modify expression of visual acuity phenotypes but do not enhance retinal degeneration due to mutation of cep290 in zebrafish. PloS one. 2019;14(4):e0213960

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PMID: 30970040

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