The mutations that cause many forms of inherited retinal degenerations have been identified, yet the mechanisms by which these mutations lead to death of photoreceptor cells of the retina are not completely understood. Investigations of the pathways from mutation to retinal degeneration have focused on spontaneous and engineered animal models of disease. Based on the studies performed to date, four major categories of degeneration mechanism can be identified. These include disruption of photoreceptor outer segment morphogenesis, metabolic overload, dysfunction of retinal pigment epithelial cells, and chronic activation of phototransduction. Future investigations will likely identify additional mechanisms of photoreceptor damage. This review will summarize what has been learned from studying animal models of non-syndromic inherited retinal degenerations.
Copyright 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.