Objective: To test the frequency and pattern of rhodopsin (RHO) mutations in Chinese retinitis pigmentosa (RP) patients and to evaluate their effects in the pathogenesis of RP.
Methods: Genomic DNA was extracted from peripheral blood samples of 100 Hong Kong Chinese RP patients. Sequence variants of the entire coding exons of the RHO gene were tested using PCR, conformation sensitive gel electrophoresis and DNA sequencing.
Results: Totally six nucleotide changes were identified, among which three were silent mutations, two missense mutations and one deletion mutation. P347L was found in one RP proband and her three children who also had RP. P327(1 bp del) was novel and detected in a late-onset RP patient of 53 years. Her 26-year-old daughter, also carrying the identified mutation, had no RP phenotypes except for the mottled retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) revealed by fundal examination. Neither of the two mutations was detected in normal controls.
Conclusion: Two patients had disease-causing mutations in the RHO gene, thus RHO mutations cause about 2.0% (95% confidence interval: 0.2%-7.0%) of all RP among Chinese in Hong Kong. A highly conserved C-terminal sequence QVS(A)PA was altered due to P347L and thereby resulting in an aberrant subcellular localization of rhodopsin. Loss of all six phosphorylatable residues at the C-terminus and the highly conserved C-terminal sequence QVS(A)PA may occur because of P327(1 bp del). To elucidate the predominant biochemical defects in such mutant, transgenic mice and transfected culture cells carrying P327(1 bp del) would be of greatest value.