Leber's congenital amaurosis (LCA) is the earliest and most severe form of all inherited retinal dystrophies responsible for congenital blindness. Genetic heterogeneity of LCA has been suspected since the report by Waardenburg of normal children born to affected parents. In 1995, we localized the first disease causing gene, LCA1, to chromosome 17p13 and confirmed the genetic heterogeneity. In 1996, we ascribed LCA1 to mutations in the photoreceptor-specific guanylate cyclase gene (retGC1). RetGC1 is an essential protein implicated in the phototransduction cascade, especially in the recovery of the dark state after the excitation process of photoreceptor cells by light stimulation. In 1997, mutations in a second gene were reported in LCA, the RPE65 gene, which is the first specific retinal pigment epithelium gene. The protein RPE65 is implicated in the metabolism of vitamin A, the precursor of the photoexcitable retinal pigment (rhodopsin). Finally, a third gene, CRX, implicated in photoreceptor development, has been suspected of causing a few cases of LCA. Taken together, these three genes account for only 27% of LCA cases in our series. The three genes encode proteins that are involved in completely different physiopathologic pathways. Based on these striking differences of physiopathologic processes, we reexamined all clinical physiopathological discrepancies and the results strongly suggested that retGC1 gene mutations are responsible for congenital stationary severe cone-rod dystrophy, while RPE65 gene mutations are responsible for congenital severe but progressive rod-cone dystrophy. It is of tremendous importance to confirm and to refine these genotype-phenotype correlations on a large scale in order to anticipate the final outcome in a blind infant, on the one hand, and to further guide genetic studies in older patients on the other hand.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.