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M L Naash, N S Peachey, Z Y Li, C C Gryczan, Y Goto, J Blanks, A H Milam, H Ripps; Light-induced acceleration of photoreceptor degeneration in transgenic mice expressing mutant rhodopsin.. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 1996;37(5):775-782.
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PURPOSE: Mutations at various loci on the rhodopsin gene have been shown to cause autosomal dominant retinitis pigmentosa (ADRP). One of the most common is a point mutation (P23H) near the N-terminus of the protein. The authors have studied the effects of light deprivation on the rate of degeneration in pigmented transgenic mice expressing the P23H mutation as well as two additional mutations near the N-terminus of opsin (V20G, P27L). METHODS: Transgenic and normal littermates were reared in darkness or in cyclic light (approximately 7 foot-candle) for periods of 2, 4, or 6 months. Retinal structure and function were evaluated by electroretinography, retinal densitometry, light microscopy, and TUNEL labeling. RESULTS: Retinas of normal animals, whether reared in darkness or in cyclic light, had no structural or functional abnormalities. The rate of photoreceptor degeneration in dark-reared transgenic mice was significantly slower than in transgenic mice raised under cyclic light conditions. Differences between the two groups of animals were evident in the retinal histology, the electroretinographically determined sensitivity to photic stimulation, and the rhodopsin levels in the retina. TUNEL labeling of retinal wholemounts showed that cyclic light-reared animals had a threefold higher incidence of photoreceptor cell death than their dark-reared counterparts; the density of apoptotic cells was greatest in the inferior retina, the region most severely affected in patients with the P23H mutation. In comparison, photoreceptor cell death was more uniformly distributed across the retina in dark-reared transgenic mice. CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that light activation of rhodopsin contributes to the severity of the degenerative disease resulting from the P23H opsin mutation, and they raise the possibility that minimizing exposure to light may help to prolong useful vision of patients with this form of retinitis pigmentosa.
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