A prime goal of regenerative medicine is to direct cell fates in a therapeutically useful manner. Retinitis pigmentosa is one of the most common degenerative diseases of the eye and is associated with early rod photoreceptor death followed by secondary cone degeneration. We hypothesized that converting adult rods into cones, via knockdown of the rod photoreceptor determinant Nrl, could make the cells resistant to the effects of mutations in rodspecific genes, thereby preventing secondary cone loss. To test this idea, we engineered a tamoxifen-inducible allele of Nrl to acutely inactivate the gene in adult rods. This manipulation resulted in reprogramming of rods into cells with a variety of cone-like molecular, histologic, and functional properties. Moreover, reprogramming of adult rods achieved cellular and functional rescue of retinal degeneration in a mouse model of retinitis pigmentosa. These findings suggest that elimination of Nrl in adult rods may represent a unique therapy for retinal degeneration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1732-1737
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 29 2013


  • Rd1
  • Rhodopsin
  • Transdifferentiation


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