Mechanistically Distinct Mouse Models for CRX-Associated Retinopathy

Nicholas M. Tran, Alan Zhang, Xiaodong Zhang, Julie B. Huecker, Anne K. Hennig, Shiming Chen

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22 Scopus citations

Abstract

Cone-rod homeobox (CRX) protein is a "paired-like" homeodomain transcription factor that is essential for regulating rod and cone photoreceptor transcription. Mutations in human CRX are associated with the dominant retinopathies Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), Cone-Rod Dystrophy (CoRD) and Leber Congenital Amaurosis (LCA), with variable severity. Heterozygous Crx Knock-Out (KO) mice ("+/-") have normal vision as adults and fail to model the dominant human disease. To investigate how different mutant CRX proteins produce distinct disease pathologies, we generated two Crx Knock-IN (K-IN) mouse models: CrxE168d2 ("E168d2") and CrxR90W ("R90W"). E168d2 mice carry a frameshift mutation in the CRX activation domain, Glu168del2, which is associated with severe dominant CoRD or LCA in humans. R90W mice carry a substitution mutation in the CRX homeodomain, Arg90Trp, which is associated with dominant mild late-onset CoRD and recessive LCA. As seen in human patients, heterozygous E168d2 ("E168d2/+") but not R90W ("R90W/+") mice show severely impaired retinal function, while mice homozygous for either mutation are blind and undergo rapid photoreceptor degeneration. E168d2/+ mice also display abnormal rod/cone morphology, greater impairment of CRX target gene expression than R90W/+ or +/- mice, and undergo progressive photoreceptor degeneration. Surprisingly, E168d2/+ mice express more mutant CRX protein than wild-type CRX. E168d2neo/+, a subline of E168d2 with reduced mutant allele expression, displays a much milder retinal phenotype, demonstrating the impact of Crx expression level on disease severity. Both CRX[E168d2] and CRX[R90W] proteins fail to activate transcription in vitro, but CRX[E168d2] interferes more strongly with the function of wild type (WT) CRX, supporting an antimorphic mechanism. E168d2 and R90W are mechanistically distinct mouse models for CRX-associated disease that will allow the elucidation of molecular mechanisms and testing of novel therapeutic approaches for different forms of CRX-associated disease.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1004111
JournalPLoS genetics
Volume10
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2014

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    Tran, N. M., Zhang, A., Zhang, X., Huecker, J. B., Hennig, A. K., & Chen, S. (2014). Mechanistically Distinct Mouse Models for CRX-Associated Retinopathy. PLoS genetics, 10(2), [e1004111]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1004111