The Arg838Ser mutation in retinal membrane guanylyl cyclase 1 (RetGC1) has been linked to autosomal dominant cone–rod dystrophy type 6 (CORD6). It is believed that photoreceptor degeneration is caused by the altered sensitivity of RetGC1 to calcium regulation via guanylyl cyclase activating proteins (GCAPs). To determine the mechanism by which this mutation leads to degeneration, we investigated the structure and function of rod photoreceptors in two transgenic mouse lines, 362 and 379, expressing R838S RetGC1. In both lines, rod outer segments became shorter than in their nontransgenic siblings by 3–4weeks of age, before the eventual photoreceptor degeneration. Despite the shortening of their outer segments, the dark current of transgenic rods was 1.5–2.2-fold higher than in nontransgenic controls. Similarly, the dim flash response amplitude in R838S+ rods was larger, time to peak was delayed, and flash sensitivity was increased, all suggesting elevated dark-adapted free cGMP in transgenic rods. In rods expressing R838S RetGC1, dark-current noise increased and the exchange current, detected after a saturating flash, became more pronounced. These results suggest disrupted Ca2+ phototransduction feedback and abnormally high free-Ca2+ concentration in the outer segments. Notably, photoreceptor degeneration, which typically occurred after 3 months of age in R838S RetGC1 transgenic mice in GCAP1,2+/+ or GCAP1,2+/- backgrounds, was prevented in GCAP1,2-/- mice lacking Ca2+ feedback to guanylyl cyclase. In summary, the dysregulation of guanylyl cyclase in RetGC1-linked CORD6 is a “phototransduction disease,” which means it is associated with increased free-cGMP and Ca2+ levels in photoreceptors.
- Guanylyl cyclase
- Retinal degeneration