Purpose: To define the phenotypic expression of a deletion in the gene encoding the transcription factor CRX in a large, seven-generation, white family.
Methods: Fourteen affected individuals, all heterozygous for the Leu146del12 mutation in the cone-rod homeobox gene (CRX), and four nonaffected relatives from the same family were examined with visual function tests, and 10 underwent bone mineral density (BMD) measurement.
Results: The ability of the mutated CRX protein to transactivate rhodopsin promoter was decreased by approximately 25%, and its ability to react synergistically with neural retinal leucine zipper (NRL) was reduced by more than 30%. The affected members of the family had an autosomal dominant ocular condition most closely resembling Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) with severe visual impairment at an early age. Depending on age, affected members showed varying degrees of significant visual acuity loss, elevated dark-adaptation thresholds, significantly reduced cone and rod electroretinogram (ERG) amplitudes, and progressive constriction of the visual fields, in most cases leading to complete blindness. Six affected members had reduced levels of BMD in the spine and the hip (osteopenia). Four affected female members who were receiving long-term hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) demonstrated normal values of BMD.
Conclusions: This large deletion of the CRX gene is associated with a severe form of autosomal dominant retinal degeneration. Affected members not receiving HRT showed reduced BMD (osteopenia). This phenotype may reflect the abnormal influence of mutant CRX on both retinal and pineal development.