PURPOSE. Mutations in the retinal transcription factor cone-rod homeobox (CRX) gene result in severe dominant retinopathies. A large animal model, the Rdy cat, carrying a spontaneous frameshift mutation in Crx, was reported previously. The present study aimed to further understand pathogenesis in this model by thoroughly characterizing the Rdy retina. METHODS. Structural and functional changes were found in a comparison between the retinas of Crx Rdy/+ kittens and those of wild-type littermates and were determined at various ages by fundus examination, electroretinography (ERG), optical coherence tomography, and histologic analyses. RNA and protein expression changes of Crx and key target genes were analyzed using quantitative reverse-transcribed PCR, Western blot analysis, and immunohistochemistry. Transcription activity of the mutant Crx was measured by a dual-luciferase transactivation assay. RESULTS. Crx Rdy/+ kittens had no recordable cone ERGs. Rod responses were delayed in development and markedly reduced at young ages and lost by 20 weeks. Photoreceptor outer segment development was incomplete and was followed by progressive outer retinal thinning starting in the cone-rich area centralis. Expression of cone and rod Crx target genes was significantly down-regulated. The mutant Crx allele was overexpressed, leading to high levels of the mutant protein lacking transactivation activity. CONCLUSIONS. The Crx Rdy mutation exerts a dominant negative effect on wild-type Crx by overexpressing mutant protein. These findings, consistent with those of studies in a mouse model, support a conserved pathogenic mechanism for CRX frameshift mutations. The similarities between the feline eye and the human eye with the presence of a central region of high cone density makes the Crx Rdy/+ cat a valuable model for preclinical testing of therapies for dominant CRX diseases.
- Animal model