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mercredi 4 septembre 2019

Clinical and Molecular Genetic Aspects of Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis




10.1 Introduction
Leber’s congenital amaurosis,an infantile onset form ofrod-cone dystrophy,is usually inherited as an autosomal recessive trait. First described by Theodor Leber in 1869 and 1871 [71], it accounts for 3–5% of childhood blindness in the developed world [108] and has an incidence
of about 2–3 per 100,000 live births [119, 50]. It occurs more frequently in communities where consanguineous marriages are common [128].
10.1.1 Clinical Findings
LCA is characterized clinically by severe visual impairment and nystagmus from early infancy associated with a nonrecordable or substantially abnormal rod and cone electroretinogram (ERG) [32, 31, 118]. The pupils react sluggishly and, although the fundus appearance is often normal in the early stages,a variety ofabnormal retinal changes may be seen.These include peripheral white dots at the level ofthe retinal pigment epithelium, and the typical bone-spicule pigmentation seen in retinitis pigmentosa. Other associated findings include the oculodigital sign, microphthalmos, enophthalmos, ptosis, strabismus, keratoconus [28], high refractive error [143],cataract,macular coloboma, optic disc swelling, and attenuated retinal vasculature.
10.1.2 Differential Diagnosis
It is now recognised that LCA represents the most severe end ofthe spectrum ofinfantile onset retinal dystrophies. Some genes originally described as causing LCA have since been shown to have a less severe clinical phenotype–with less nystagmus, normal pupil reactions, and better vision despite an absent ERG
Clinical and Molecular Genetic Aspects of Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis Robert Henderson,Birgit Lorenz,Anthony T.Moore
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∑ Leber’s congenital amaurosis (LCA) is a severe generalized retinal dystrophy which presents at birth or soon after with nystagmus and poor vision and is accompanied by a nonrecordable or severely attenuated ERG ∑ As some forms are associated with better vision during childhood and nystagmus may be absent,a wider definition is early onset severe retinal dystrophy (EOSRD) with LCA being the most severe form ∑ It is nearly always a recessive condition but there is considerable genetic heterogeneity ∑ There are eight known causative genes and three further loci that have been implicated in LCA/EOSRD ∑ The phenotype varies with the genes involved;not all are progressive.At present, a distinct phenotype has been elaborated for patients with mutations in RPE65 ∑ Although LCA is currently not amenable to treatment,gene therapy appears to be a promising therapeutic option,especially for those children with mutations in RPE65 Core Messages
[99].This has led some to use the term early onset severe retinal dystrophy (EOSRD) to describe severe rod-cone dystrophies of infantile onset. The main differential diagnosis is from other causes of infantile nystagmus [14, 76] particularly early onset static retinal conditions such as congenital stationary night blindness [5] and the various forms of achromatopsia [90]. The clinical features,and in particular the ERG findings, allow these disorders to be distinguished from LCA. Although most children with LCA have disease confined to the eye; there are a number of recessively inherited systemic disorders such as Joubert syndrome, and the peroxisomal disorders in which an early onset retinal dystrophy similar to LCA may form part of the syndrome (Table10.1). Usually the other systemic findings allow these disorders to be distinguished from LCA but in some disorders, for example Alstrom syndrome [117] and juvenile nephronothisis [7,30,132] the systemic features may not become apparent until later childhood.
10.2 Molecular Genetics
LCA is usually inherited as an autosomal recessive disorder,although there are a few reports of autosomal dominant inheritance [33, 102, 135]. Although it had been recognised as early as 1963 that there was more than one causative gene [142], it is only recently that the true extent of the genetic heterogeneity has been identified. To date,eight genes (GUCY2D [103],AIPL1 [123], RPE65 [84, 44], RPGRIP1 [27, 40], CRX [35, 56], TULP1 [9, 43, 46], CRB1 [79], RDH12 [58, 101]) and a three further loci (LCA3 [126],LCA5 [93] and LCA9 [62]) have been reported in LCA/ EOSRD. Furthermore, mutations in two other genes (LRAT [131] and MERTK [87]) are associated with a very early onset form of RP that could also be classified as EOSRD. All together these genes account for between 20% and 50% of cases of LCA cases and it is evident that more genes remain to be discovered [48,18] (Figs.10.1,10.2).
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Table 10.1. Systemic disorders with associated LCA findings
Disorder MIM No. Systemic features
Senior-Loken syndrome MIM 266900 Kidney disease (nephronophthisis) Mainzer-Saldino syndrome MIM 266920 Skeletal anomalies including osteopetrosis giving cone shaped epiphyses of the hand bones and ataxia Lhermitte-Duclos syndrome MIM 158350 Cerebellar hyperplasia,macrocephaly and seizures Joubert syndrome MIM 213300 Cerebellar hypoplasia,oculomotor difficulties and respiratory problems Alstrom syndrome MIM 203800 Cardiomyopathy,deafness,obesity and diabetes Bardet-Biedl syndrome MIM 209900 Mental retardation,polydactyly, obesity and hypogonadism,abnormality in renal structure,function,or both Infantile Refsum disease MIM 266510 Abnormal accumulation of phytanic acid leading to peripheral neuropathy,ataxia impaired hearing, and bone and skin changes Zellweger disease MIM 214100 Cerebrohepatorenal syndrome Neonatal adrenoleucodystrophy MIM 202370 Similar in biochemical terms to Zellweger syndrome; it has characteristic facies,adrenal atrophy,and degenerative white matter changes Infantile Batten disease MIM 256730 Histopathologically:total derangement of cortical cytoarchitecture with severe degeneration of white matter.Clinically:rapid psychomotor deterioration, ataxia,and muscular hypotonia;microcephaly and myoclonic jerks are also features
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Fig.10.1. Median frequency of disease genes in LCA/EOSRD
Fig.10.2. Putative sites of gene expression for LCA/EOSRD
10.2.1 GUCY-2D (LCA1 Locus)
GUCY-2D (17p13.1) was the first gene identified as causative in LCA [103].The prevalence ofmutations of GUCY-2D in LCA is much higher (70%) in cases from Mediterranean countries [49].GUCY-2Dencodes a human photoreceptor specific guanylate cyclase which plays a key role in phototransduction.Guanylyl cyclase catalyzes the conversion of guanosine triphosphate (GTP) to cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP). Guanylate cyclase function is important in restoring levels of cGMP levels, which keeps open the gated cation channels allowing recovery of the dark state after phototransduction.Mutations in the gene would lead to permanent closure ofthe c-GMP gated cation channels with resultant hyperpolarisation of the plasma membrane. Recessive mutations in GUCY-2D are associated with LCA and the causative mutations have been reported in the extracellular, kinase-like, dimerisation, and catalytic domains [104, 116]. Heterozygous mutations in the same gene have been reported to cause an autosomal dominant cone rod dystrophy [26, 105, 134] (http://www. retina-international.org/sci-news/gcmut.htm). Histological examination ofthe eyes from an 11-year-old LCA donor with a known GUCY-2D mutation,who had light perception vision and a nondetectable ERG at the time of death,showed regional loss of photoreceptors. There were no identifiable photoreceptors in the mid-peripheral retina, but rods and cones lacking outer segments were present in the macula and peripheral retina, although in reduced numbers. The inner nuclear layer was found to be of normal thickness but horizontal cell,amacrine and ganglion cell numbers were decreased [91]. The fact that there were significant numbers of residual photoreceptors and inner retinal neurons despite a visual acuity of light perception gives rise to some optimism that any future therapy may lead to improved retinal function. However, visual improvement following successful therapy may be limited by sensory deprivation amblyopia unless treatment was given in early infancy.
10.2.1.1 Genotype–Phenotype Correlations
The findings ofhigh hyperopia (>+7DS),severe photophobia,poor vision of count fingers (CF) or light perception (LP) in addition to the presence of early peripheral and macular degeneration with bone spicule pigments in the periphery,disc pallor and vessel attenuation has been suggested by Perrault et al.to be pathognomonic ofthe GUCY-2Dmutation [103].Other groups have, however, reported LCA patients with GUCY-2D mutations who have no significant photophobia,better visual acuity (20/200),and mild to moderate hyperopia [25].
10.2.2 RPE65 (LCA2)
Mutations in RPE65 are associated with a number of different retinal degenerations,including LCA [44, 84, 95, 121], autosomal recessive RP [93],and an early onset severe rod-cone dystrophy [77] (http://www.retina-international.org/ sci-news/rpe65mut.htm). Mutations in RPE65 account for 3–16% of cases of LCA/EOSRD in various series [25,40,48,80,95,130].The RPE65 gene localizes to 1p31.2 and consists of 14 exons. It encodes two distinct forms ofa 65-kD protein specific to the smooth endoplasmic reticulum (ER) ofthe retinal pigment epithelium:a retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) membrane-associated form (mRPE65) and a lower molecular weight soluble form (sRPE65)[83].RPE65 plays a key role in the metabolism of vitamin A within the retina.RPE65 serves as a binding protein for all-trans-retinyl esters [41, 57] Analysis of RPE65 knockout mice shows that it is involved in the isomerisation of all-trans-retinol to 11-cis-retinol within the RPE [107]. Xue et al. [148] demonstrated that the membrane associated form is triply palmitoylated and is a chaperone for all-trans retinyl esters,allowing their entry into the visual cycle for processing into 11-cis retinal.The soluble form of RPE65 is not palmitoylated and is a chaperone for vitamin A. The two chaperones are interconverted by lecithin acyl transferase (LRAT) acting as a palmitoyl transferase catalyzing the mRPE65 to
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sRPE65 conversion,like a molecular switch controlling the quantity of chromophore required by the visual cycle [148]. Recent evidence suggests RPE65, when coexpressed with LRAT in QBI-293A or COS-1 cells, efficiently generates 11-cis retinol from all-trans retinyl ester, suggesting that it is an enzyme responsible for the isomerohydrolase activity [150]. Knockout mice show oil-like droplets in the RPE composed of accumulations of these alltrans retinyl esters [109].However,it is unlikely that the accumulation of these esters is responsible for the photoreceptor degeneration. Further experiments in RPE65–/– mice have demonstrated a high concentration of the apoprotein opsin, mostly unphosphorylated and unbound
to arrestin [109,115].Spontaneous opsin activity has been subsequently shown to lead to retinal degeneration through a mechanism as yet poorly understood [147],and this may be a key factor in photoreceptor cell death in early onset retinal dystrophy associated with mutations of RPE65. Histological examination of 33-week embryonic human retina with a known RPE65 mutation showed extensive structural degeneration with RPE, neural retina, choriocapillaris and Bruch’s membrane, all showing severe changes compared to age-matched controls [107]. This suggests that some of the retinal degeneration in this form of LCA may occur before birth. It has been argued that the extensive retinal degeneration seen in this foetus may not be char
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Fig.10.3. Scatterplot of VA data of patients with known mutations in RPE65.VA in dependence on age (51 patients,114 VA data).Most patients had measura
ble visual acuities at least during the first decade,with a clustering between 0.1 and 0.3 From [99].With permission from Graefe’s Archive
Fig.10.4a,b. Fundus of two patients with RPE65 mutations.aHJ at 6years.IVS1 + 5G-A/144insT.For details see [77].bBR at 7 years.IVS1 + 5G-A/114delA +T457N.For details see [77]
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acteristic,as clinically infants with RPE65 mutations have a normal fundus and reasonable visual acuity and fields [99].
10.2.2.1 Genotype–Phenotype Correlations
Infants with RPE65 mutations perform visual tasks best in bright light [77, 106] and often show light-staring behaviour. The infants have poor but useful vision in early life (6/18–6/60), which may show initial improvement [106] (though this may represent a form of delayed visual maturation) but then declines through school age years. A number of patients retain residual islands of peripheral vision into the third decade oflife [130] and later [99].Progressive visual field loss and vision reduced to LP in the fifth and sixth decades is usual [3].Refractive errors are variable with high or mild hyperopia,emmetropiaor myopia being reported [25, 99] (Fig.10.3). Fundus autofluorescence (FAF) imaging has shown to be absent in children with early onset severe retinal dystrophy who have compound heterozygous or homozygous RPE65 mutations. They have a near normal fundus appearance on ophthalmoscopy and preserved RPE and photoreceptors on OCT (Fig.10.4).Absence of fundus autofluorescence in RPE65–/– mice has been shown to be secondary to failure of lipofuscin fluorophore manufacture,which depends upon normal function of the visual cycle [60, 78]. Similar lack of fundus autofluorescence is also seen in human subjects (Fig.10.5).FAF imaging is therefore an extremely useful tool for screening patients with retinal dystrophies that may be due to RPE65 mutations; the restoration of normal autofluorescence may be an early sign of successful therapeutic effect in future treatment trials [78].
10.2.3 CRX
The third gene found to be responsible for LCA was CRX[35,55,125],a photoreceptor homeobox gene localizing to 19q13.3 [16]. CRX mutations have been reported in a number of differing
retinal phenotypes,including early onset autosomal dominant cone-rod dystrophy [34],autosomal dominant RP [125], autosomal dominant LCA [35,102] and recessive LCA [127].CRX has been found to account for between 0.6% and 6% of mutations in LCA patients [25,34,48,80,112]. CRX encoding a 299-aminoacid protein which belongs to the paired class of homeodomain proteins with three highly conserved motifs: the homeodomain, a WSP domain and an OTX tail.It functions as a transcription factor and in vitro,the protein recognises a specific sequence that is found in the promoters of many photoreceptor-specific genes, including rhodopsin, arrestin, the b-subunit of rod cGMP-phosphodiesterase, and interphotoreceptor retinoid-binding protein (IRBP) [16,36]. In vivo, many of these genes seem to require CRXfor normal expression [37].CRXknockout mice have reduced levels of expression of many photoreceptor-specific genes,leading to subsequent retinal degeneration [75]. The CRX protein forms a complex with another transcription factor – NRL– and works synergistically to activate the rhodopsin promoter [16] to much greater effect than either alone. Mutations in CRX have been implicated in both dominant ad recessive forms of LCA. Reported mutations include: a homozygous CRX mutation [127]; a heterozygous CRX mutation resulting in a four amino acid deletion [125]; a heterozygous null mutation [102, 120]; and a heterozygous frameshift mutation identified in a mother and son with LCA [64] (http://www. retina-international.org/scinews/crxmut.htm). There are a number ofpossible explanations for the finding of heterozygous mutations in some patients including the presence of an unidentified mutation on the other CRX allele; an additional mutation in another gene (digenic inheritance) or the possibility that some CRX mutants work in a dominant-negative manner to interfere with wild-type CRX function [111].
10.2.3.1 Genotype–Phenotype Correlations
CRX mutations have been identified in association with LCA, retinitis pigmentosa and cone rod dystrophy. Although this phenotypic vari
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Fig.10.5a–i. Fundus autofluorescence (Heidelberg Retina Angiograph,HRA,Heidelberg Engineering) in patients with early onset severe retinal dystrophy (EOSRD) associated with mutations in RPE65.Overall image brightness does not reflect the absolute amount of fundus autofluorescence (AF).Please note very similar brightness at optic disc and retina in all images displayed.This results from lack of AF. a Patient LJ at 10years of age. Nearly absent AF in both eyes.Shown is the right eye.bPatient LH at 14years of age. Very low AF in both eyes, perimacular slightly brighter circle.Left eye is shown.LJ and LH are siblings.cPatient HJ at 11 years.Nearly absent AF in both eyes.Right eye is shown.d Patient BR,aged 11years. No detectable AF in both eyes. Right eye is shown.
e Patient CG at 19years of age. No detectable AF in both eyes. Right eye is shown. f Patient CY aged 27years.Very low AF in both eyes, peripapillary image is a little brighter.Right eye is shown.CG and CY are siblings. g Patient KM at 54years. Nearly absent AF in both eyes.Shown is the left eye.hPatient KG at 43years. Nearly absent AF in both eyes. Right eye is shown.KM and KG are siblings.iPatient FT at 55years of age.Very low AF in both eyes,oval areas of nondetectable AF at the posterior pole corresponding clinically to atrophic areas, temporal of the optic disc, some AF visible.The signal may come from the sclera. Right eye is shown. With permission from Ophthalmology.For detailed explanation see [78]
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ability may in the main be due to allelic heterogeneity,other modifying genes or environmental factors are likely to play a role, as the same CRX mutation may produce clinically highly disparate phenotypes. For example, some patients with c.436del12bp were diagnosed with LCA, while one retained vision of 20/80 at age 27years [125]. The fundal appearances associated with CRX mutations include attenuated retinal vessels,intraretinal pigment deposits,and areas of retinal atrophy, including macular atrophy (coloboma). Some patients are reported as having normal fundi in infancy [25].Moderate hyperopia is often found [25, 801, 111], though Rivolta et al.[111] showed that when the average refractive error of published cases of all CRX mutations was calculated, the outcome was slightly myopic. This, they argued, indicates that hyperopia is associated with poor vision in early life rather than with the CRX mutations per se.
10.2.4 AIPL1 (LCA4)
AIPL1 (aryl-hydrocarbon interacting proteinlike 1), described by Sohocki et al. [123], was the fourth of the LCA genes to be identified and accounts for 3.4–11% [24, 48, 66, 124] of cases. It has also been identified as putatively causative in autosomal dominant cone-rod dystrophy and retinitis pigmentosa (RP) [124] (http://www.retina-international.org/sci-news/ aipl1mut.htm), though Cremers [18] has expressed some doubt about this. The AIPL1 gene (located on 17p13.2) encodes a 384-aminoacid protein that contains three tetratricopeptide (TPR) motifs. TPR domains are sites of protein–protein interaction, and it is thought that the AIPL1 protein, through this motif, interacts and aids in the processing of farnesylated proteins [151] which are responsible for attachment to cell membranes, in other words, maintaining photoreceptor architecture. AIPL1 has also been shown to interact with NEDD8 ultimate buster-1 (NUB1), which is an interferon inducible protein; both NUB1 and
AIPL1are expressed within the developing cone and rod photoreceptors but co-localise solely within the rods ofthe mature retina [2,123,139]. This suggests that AIPL1is essential for the normal development of photoreceptor cells. NUB1 is located predominantly within the nuclear component ofcells as compared to AIPL1,which is largely cytoplasmic [137,139].It has now been shown that AIPL1 can modulate protein translocation through enhanced farnesylation, and acts in a chaperone-like manner escorting prenylated proteins to their target membranes, suggesting that AIPL1 is an important modulator ofNUB1cellular function [138].AIPL1mutations implicated in LCA have been shown in vitro not to interact with NUB1 suggesting that this lack of interaction may be a key factor in the abnormal retinal function seen in the LCA retina [59].
10.2.4.1 Genotype–Phenotype Correlations
Much of the phenotypic description given below is from the study of 26 probands with the AIPL1 mutation described by Dharmaraj et al. [24]. Affected individuals had a severe phenotype with poor vision,maculopathy,significant pigmentary changes, disc pallor, with the later development of keratoconus and cataract in up to one-third of cases. Nyctalopia was found in half,and photoaversion and photoattraction were described but were uncommon. Levels of visual acuity were generally very poor with most patients having HMs or light perception.No patient had better vision than 20/400. The most common refractive error was moderate hyperopia,though mild myopia was occasionally found. Maculopathy was present in 80% (16/20) in this study and in the remaining four probands, who were all aged 2–6years, an abnormal indistinct foveal reflex was noted. All patients had some form of pigmentary retinopathy from mild mid-peripheral salt and pepper appearance to a severe chorioretinopathy.In addition, varying degrees of optic nerve pallor were seen in all patients after the age of 6 (Fig.10.6).
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10.2.5 RPGRIP1 (LCA6)
RPGRIP1 (14q11.2) is the fifth (and largest with 25 exons) of the genes responsible for the LCA phenotype [27]. It accounts for between 4.5% and 6% of LCA cases [6, 27, 40, 48] (http://www.retina-international.org/sci-news/ rpgripmu.htm). The X-linked RP3 locus encodes several spliced isoforms of the retinitis pigmentosa GTPase regulator (RPGR) [63, 89, 113, 141]. The RPGR interacting protein (RPGRIP) is a structural component of the ciliary axoneme and is known to localize in the photoreceptor connecting cilium [51] and the amacrine cells of bovine retina [13,85].RPGR interacts directly in vivo and in vitro with theRPGR interacting domain (RID) at the C-terminus of RPGRIP1,and both proteins co-localise to the outer segment of photoreceptors in the bovine and human retina [114]. Several RPGRIP1 isoforms have also been found and are expressed at a number of different subcellular locations across species,includ
ing at the nuclear rims and axonal processes in a subset of amacrine cells located at the proximal edge of the inner nuclear layer (INL) [13]. These RPGRIP1 isoforms have also been shown to co-localise with RanBP2,a component of the nuclear pore complex which has been implicated in the rate-limiting steps of nuclear-cytoplasmic trafficking processes. RPGRIPknockout mice initially develop a full complement ofphotoreceptors,but the outer segments rapidly become disorganized with pyknotic nuclei indicating cell death,and there is almost complete loss of photoreceptors by 3months of age.The photoreceptor degeneration is more severe than that seen in the RPGR–/– mice [149].It has also been established in the murine knockout model that RPGRIPis not essential for transporting or restricting proteins across the connecting cilium (CC); nor is it thought to be essential for development or maintenance of the core CC structure. However, the outer segment arrangement of disks is grossly altered in a manner not seen in the RPGR–/–mice.The mechanism ofphotoreceptor cell death associated with RPGRIP1 mutations is currently poorly understood.
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Fig.10.6. aPedigree of family with AIPL1 mutation K14E. bXmnI restriction digest for the homozygous K14E mutation. The mutation creates a novel restriction site,as shown by the restriction fragments of 152 and 103 bp from the 255-bp amplimer (C control,M marker).Fundus photograph of case 3 (II:3) at age 22years: cright eye,dleft eye
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10.2.5.1 Genotype–Phenotype Correlations
The phenotype of the RPGRIP1 LCA patients is relatively severe, with nystagmus and severely reduced visual acuities from a young age. Dryja’s original paper [27] reports a 26-year-old with LP vision, moderate vascular attenuation, and no intraretinal pigmentation; another 15-year-old had LP vision, low hyperopia and mid-peripheral pigmentation.Hanein et al.[48] report early photophobia as an early sign in patients with RPGRIP1mutations (Fig.10.7).
10.2.6 TULP1
The gene (TULP1) encoding the Tubby like protein 1 on 6p21.3 is part ofa family oftubby genes (tub,tubby 1–3).TULP1was identified as a cause of an autosomal recessive retinal degeneration in several isolated families [43, 46] and large pedigrees living in the Dominican Republic [9]. Several mutations in the TULP1gene are associ
ated with early onset, severe retinal degeneration consistent with LCA (http://www.retina-international.org/sci-news/tulpmut.htm). TULP1 mutations accounts for a minority of Leber’s cases (1.7% [48]). The TULP genes are characterized by the tubby domain, a highly conserved region of about 260 amino acids,located at the carboxyl terminus of all TULP-family proteins. The four members ofthe family are localised primarily to nervous tissue [12] and all are expressed in the retina [92]. Tubby mice display a three-part phenotype of blindness, deafness, and maturity onset obesity. The exact role of the Tubby-like proteins remains to be fully elucidated. TULP1 is found expressed by human retinal neuroblasts at 8.4 foetal weeks, suggesting a fundamental role in retinal differentiation; it is not expressed in mature rod or cone outer segments in either human or mouse [52], nor indeed is it seen in the nuclei of adult mouse photoreceptors [46]. Some evidence suggests that TULP1is a transcription factor involved in control of other photoreceptors genes [11].
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Fig.10.7a,b. Fundus autofluorescence (Heidelberg Retina Angiograph,HRA,Heidelberg Engineering) in patients with early onset severe retinal dystrophy (EOSRD) not associated with RPE65 or LRAT mutations.aPatient HaA at 7years of age.Limited cooperation and photophobia affect image quality. Fundus
autofluorescence AF is clearly present in both eyes. Right eye is shown. b Patient MT at 10years of age. Limited cooperation due to photophobia and nystagmus influence image quality.AF is clearly present in both eyes.Left eye is shown.From [78],with permission
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TULP1 knockout mice show a retinal degeneration,but not the other characteristic phenotypes – obesity or deafness – seen in mice with TUB–/– mutations [53]. Histological analysis in the mouse model shows there to be a marked degeneration of the photoreceptor layer.
10.2.6.1 Genotype–Phenotype Correlations:TULP1
Initially, patients found to have TULP1 mutations by candidate gene screening were from populations with the clinical diagnosis of RP [43, 46]; however, the retinal degeneration resulting from the IVS14+1, GA TULP1 mutation [9,74] is an atypical form of RP and fits a clinical category that is better described as LCA. Subsequent analysis of a large LCA group (n=179) found TULP1involvement in 1.7% [48]. Clinical features include nystagmus,poor vision from an early age ranging from 20/200, LP, nyctalopia and early immeasurable rod function, and impaired or absent cone function on electroretinography [46]. Older patients may show macular abnormalities (yellow macular deposits or a bull’s eye maculopathy) and optic disc pallor. Myopic refractive errors have also been described. However, in contrast to tubby mice,Tulp1 (–/–) mice exhibited normal hearing ability and, surprisingly, normal body weight despite the fact that both TUB and TULP1 are expressed in the same neurons within the hypothalamus in areas known to be involved in feeding behaviour and energy homeostasis.
10.2.7 CRB1
The Crumbs homologue 1 gene (CRB1) maps to 1q31.3 and consists of 11 exons; it is expressed specifically in the brain and retina [22],though the truncated secreted protein CRB1s is also expressed during skin development [144]. It was first described as responsible for a distinctive form of autosomal recessive RP, referred to as RP12,which exhibited preservation of the paraarteriolar RPE.Subsequently,several cohorts of LCA probands were analysed and CRB1variants were found in 9–13% [23,48,79],though in one
study no CRB1 mutations were identified. [21] (http://www.retina-international.org/sci-news/ crb1mut.htm). CRB1 is analogous to the Drosophila Melanogaster Crumbs protein ; it contains 19 epidermal growth factor (EGF) -like domains, a transmembrane domain,three laminin A globular-like domains, and a 37-amino acid cytoplasmic tail [23]. The Crumbs protein localises to the apical membrane in Drosophila and acts as a regulator of epithelial polarity [129, 145]. Antibodies raised against the cytoplasmic domain ofCRB1reveal its distribution at the apical membrane of all retinal epithelial cells,the rod and cone photoreceptors and Muller cells in the adult mouse retina. In rod and cone photoreceptors, CRB1 is confined to the inner segments, where it is specifically located at the zonula adherens (ZA). CRB has a role in the maintenance ofthe ZA integrity and stalk membrane formation during photoreceptor cell (PRC) development in Drosophila [100]. The defects in CRB rd8 mutant mice show similarities to those in the fly model: the external limiting, membrane and zonula adherens are fragmented and shortened photoreceptor inner and outer segments are observed as early as 2weeks after birth,suggesting that there is a developmental defect rather than a degenerative process [88]. Studies in the CRB1–/– mice suggest that CRB1 has a key role in formation of the adherens junctions that make up the outer limiting membrane.It is required for the maintenance of a single,organized layer of PRCs.In the absence of the normal gene product, the adhesion between PRCs and Muller cells is temporarily lost,following light exposure,resulting in dramatic structural and functional changes. These changes were exacerbated by prolonged exposure to light [136].
10.2.7.1 Genotype-Phenotype Correlations
In humans with CRB1 mutations,retinal thickness as measured by OCT is significantly increased (1.5 times thicker), with a coarse lamination pattern [54]. (Fig.10.8). In the original description [79], two fairly consistent phenotypic features were described: the presence of
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Fig.10.8. Optical coherence tomography scan Zeiss OCT-3 (Zeiss Humphrey,Dublin,CA),15-year-old Caucasian male with homozygous C948Y mutation in CRB1 showing thickened retinal appearance
Fig.10.9. Six-year-old male with heterozygous G850S mutation in CRB1 showing white dots and pigment at level of the RPE
moderate to high hyperopia; and the relatively early appearance of white spots at the level of the RPE and pigment clumping (Fig.10.9).The preservation of the peri-arteriolar retinal pigment epithelium (characteristic ofRP12) is seen occasionally [79]. Hanein et al. report early macular reorganisation in the first decade oflife as being characteristic of CRB1 mutations [48].
10.2.8 RDH12
RDH12 mutations were first reported simultaneously in several west Austrian families [58], possibly as a founder mutation,and in a significant subset (4.1%) of unrelated LCA patients in France [101] (http://www.retina-international.org/ sci-news/rdh12mut.htm). RDH12 maps close to the LCA3 locus [126] on 14q24.1,though whilst the linkage analysis performed gave a significant lod score at this locus (3.24–3.87) a maximum lod score of 13.29 was obtained 10Mb distally. It remains to be seen whether the families mapped to the LCA3 locus have RDH12 mutations or whether there is another LCA gene in the same region. RDH12 is a photoreceptor-specific gene involved in the production of 11-cis retinal from 11-cisretinol during regeneration ofthe cone visual pigments [45],though it has dual substrate specificity for both the -cisand -transretinoids. Whether it is the decrease in 11-cis synthesis and/or accumulation of the all-trans retinal within the photoreceptors that causes the severe LCA phenotype is not yet known.
10.2.8.1 Genotype–Phenotype Correlations
Both of the original papers reporting RDH12 mutations described a severe phenotype with onset of symptoms in early childhood with nystagmus, attenuation of the arterioles, bone spicule intraretinal pigmentation,mild to moderate hypermetropia and macular atrophy with severe visual loss before the end of the second decade [58,101].Early visual assessments during childhood differ between individuals mapping to the LCA3 locus [126] and those with RDH12 mutations,with acuities ranging from 5/200-LP
in LCA 3 but the clinical course in RDH12 being similar to that of RPE65 with initial slight improvement in vision (1/10–2/10) followed by later progressive deterioration [101].
10.2.9 Other Loci
There are several other loci reported for LCA. These include LCA3 on 14q24 [126], LCA5 on 6q11–16 [93]; and LCA9 on 1p36 [62]. In addition, early onset retinal dystrophies have been reported with mutations in LRAT located on 4q31 [131] and MERTK on 2q14.1 [87]. Linkage to the LCA5 locus at 6q11–16 was confirmed from 13 members of a large consanguineous family from Pakistan [93].Best corrected visual acuities were PL and nystagmus was present in all affected members.A unilateral vitreous opacity was found in the three eldest members. Macular atrophy appearing more severe with age was noted,and progressive changes in the retinal periphery were observed with white dots at the level ofthe RPE in the youngest member, which changed to a grey-green pigmentary disturbance in the older members. The LCA9 (1p36) locus was identified through homozygosity mapping in a large consanguineous family of Pakistani origin.The phenotype is one of severe visual impairment (PL) from birth, photophobia, nystagmus and posterior subcapsular lens opacities. Fundus examination showed optic disc pallor, retinal vascular attenuation, macular staphyloma and pigmentary disturbance,with white dots at the level of the RPE [62]. Lecithin retinol acyl transferase (LRAT-4q31.2) mutations have been associated with EOSRD [131].LRAT is an enzyme present mainly in the RPE and the liver; it converts all-trans-retinol into all-trans-retinyl esters,and therefore plays a key role in the retinoid cycle,replenishing the 11-cis-retinal chromophore of rhodopsin and cone pigments. LRAT knockout mice revealed rod segments that are approximately 35% shorter than wild type and have severely attenuated ERGs [10]. The phenotype identified so far in humans is similar to that of RPE65, with night blindness and poor vision from early child
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hood. There is severe early loss of peripheral visual field,and fundus examination shows peripheral RPE atrophy with little pigment migration into the retina. MERTK was identified as a rare cause of EOSRD [85] mutations in three patients with an early onset form ofautosomal recessive RP [39]. It encodes a receptor tyrosine kinase found in RPE cells that is required for phagocytosis of shed photoreceptor outer segments. The absence ofMERTK results in accumulation ofouter segment debris,which subsequently leads to progressive loss of photoreceptor cells [19]. A naturally occurring animal model with a MERTK mutation,the RCS rat,has been extensively investigated [19]. The patients described with MERTK mutations are reported to have childhood onset nyctalopia, preserved visual fields, relatively mild RPE changes with a bull’s eye lesion at the macular, absence of pigment migration to the RPE,and recordable autofluorescence [87,133].
10.3 Heterozygous Carriers
Several groups have looked at the phenotypic characteristics of the heterozygous carriers in families with LCA [25, 38]. In one cohort, 22 of the 30 LCA carriers (73.3%) had a phenotype determined from detailed ERG measurements and/or retinal examination. None experienced significant subjective visual difficulty. Visual acuities were normal and there was no refractive error trend associated with a genotype.Fundus findings most commonly seen were white drusen-like deposits, present in RPE65 carriers (88%), a finding previously noted [77], CRB1 carriers (75%) and RPGRIP1 carriers (57%).
10.4 Future Therapeutic Avenues
There are three promising potential treatment strategies for LCA: (a) gene therapy, (b) retinal/RPE transplantation,and (c) pharmacological therapy.None have yet been the subject of a clinical trial in humans.
10.4.1 Gene Therapy
Gene therapy is by its very nature gene-specific and requires that the patient’s individual mutations are known. For any gene therapy, trial patients will be selected on the basis of their genotype and this requires that patients with LCA/EOSRD are accurately genotyped, which, given the heterogeneity of the disorder,is a significant undertaking.Gene therapy appears to be a very promising approach and has been shown to be effective in some animal models. Both the Briard dog, a large animal model of EORD,which has a naturally occurring homozygous 4-bp deletion in the RPE65gene and the RPE65–/– mouse have been treated with gene therapy techniques using viral vectors.In utero gene therapy in the RPE65–/– mouse resulted in restoration of visual function and measurable rhodopsin in the outer retina [20]. Treatment also results in a decrease in retinyl ester droplets and an increase in shortwave cone opsin cells [67].In the LCA dog model,animals treated with subretinal injections of adenoassociated virus (AAV) containing cDNA of canine RPE65, all electrophysiological parameters, pupillometry, and behavioural testing showed significant signs of improvement [1]. An unexpected finding was that on long-term follow-up,significant improvement in photopic ERG responses were found in the contralateral untreated eye [97]. This surprising finding is unexplained. The main concern with this mode of treatment relates to the potential for a sight-threatening uveitic response to the novel protein. Lewis rats immunized with RPE65 developed acute and severe inflammatory eye disease that affected most ocular tissues [47]. Uveitis developed in 75% of transgene-treated eyes in the null mutation dogs but only one eye (8%) was refractory to treatment [96].Human gene therapy trials are planned for LCA patients with RPE65 mutations in the near future [4].
170 Chapter 10 Clinical and Molecular Genetic Aspects of Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis
10.4.2 Retinal Transplantation and Stem Cell Therapy
Several experimental surgical approaches to retinal cell rescue,including cell transplantation and stem cell therapy have been pursued in the last few years. The advantages of these approaches are that they are not mutation-specific and in theory they could be performed late in the disease process.However,preventing tissue rejection and in the case of photoreceptor transplantation ensuring that the transplant integrates with host retinal tissue remain formidable challenges. RPE transplantation holds out a greater prospect of success than photoreceptor transplantation,as functioning synapses do not need to be established. It has been investigated in a number of animal models. Transplantation of normal RPE into the subretinal space of RPE65–/– mice increases ERG amplitude and reduces anatomic deterioration without signs of inflammation [42]. These effects, however, do not seem to be maintained, suggesting that transplanted RPE cells have a limited life span. Transplantation of either embryonic dissociated cells or retinal sheets in to the subretinal space of rodent models of retinal degeneration demonstrate that transplants survive and differentiate and that neuronal fibres originating from the transplant develop synapses with the host retina which are at least sufficient to mediate a simple light-dark preference [8, 67]. It is unclear whether the effects ofthe transplant are mediated via these putative synapses or by the production by the graft of trophic growth factors which preserve some host retinal function. Another generic approach to the treatment ofretinal dystrophies has been to provide an alternative RPE cell type to replace the physiological function of defective cells [82]. ARPE19 cells,when transplanted into the retina ofyoung RCS rats, slows the progress of photoreceptor loss [17]. Similarly, the transplantation of Schwann cells rescues photoreceptors in both RCS rats and rho–/– mice [61,69,70,86]; this is thought to be mediated though release of neuroprotective paracrine factors. It has also been
demonstrated that normal rod photoreceptors release a cone survival factor (rod-derived cone viability factor –rdCVF [71]). Transplanting small amounts of rods can rescue cones in a murine model [72,94]. Stem cell therapy holds out the prospect of retinal tissue replacement and repair, but research in this area is still in its infancy.Experimental transplantation of brain-derived stem cells [81,146],bone marrow derived neural stem cells [98],and retinal progenitor cells [15] have had mixed results.Retinal progenitor cells have been isolated, expanded and grafted into the degenerating retina of mature rho–/– mice. A subset of the grafted cells developed into mature neurons and photoreceptors, with rescue of the outer nuclear layer and integration of donor cells into the inner retina.Engrafted mice showed improved light-mediated behaviour [64].
10.4.3 Pharmacological Therapies
In retinal dystrophies due to RPE65 mutations, there is an inability to form 11-cis retinal and this has led to vitamin A supplements being given to RPE65–/– mice in the form of oral 9-cis retinal.Within 48h,there was a significant improvement in rod function with formation of rod photopigment [140].Whether these results can be translated in humans,once safety and efficacy issues are resolved,remains to be seen. Other neuroprotective factors are being assessed in mice models of RP. Basic fibroblast growth factor increases the life of photoreceptors in the RCS rat [29], and recently systemic erythropoietin has been shown to have neuroprotective and neurotrophic actions in the central and peripheral nervous systems including the retina in rds/peripherin models of retinal degeneration [110].
Summary for the Clinician ∑ LCA/EOSRD is a recessive condition leading to severely impaired vision from birth or infancy ∑ It is distinguished from other diagnoses on the basis of a nonrecordable ERG
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∑ There are several known syndromic causes that must be excluded ∑ Genotype–phenotype correlations are being established though are still in an early stage of refinement and include: – GUCY2D:severe pigmentary dystrophy, high hyperopia,and photophobia – RPE65:better vision until late school years,extreme light dependence of visual performance in infancy and childhood, nyctalopia,absence of retinal autofluorescence even though the fundal appearance is still almost normal – AIPL1:pigmentary retinopathy, maculopathy and optic nerve pallor with keratoconus and cataract in up to one-third of cases – CRB1:early appearance of white spots and pigment clumping at the level of the RPE,and thickened retinal appearance as seen on OCT ∑ Several different therapeutic avenues are now being explored:Gene therapy appears to be the most promising approach and the first gene therapy trials for RPE65mutations are likely to start in the next 2–3years

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