A hybrid photoreceptor expressing both rod and cone genes in a mouse model of enhanced S-cone syndrome

PLoS Genet. 2005 Aug;1(2):e11. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.0010011. Epub 2005 Aug 5.


Rod and cone photoreceptors subserve vision under dim and bright light conditions, respectively. The differences in their function are thought to stem from their different gene expression patterns, morphologies, and synaptic connectivities. In this study, we have examined the photoreceptor cells of the retinal degeneration 7(rd7) mutant mouse, a model for the human enhanced S-cone syndrome (ESCS). This mutant carries a spontaneous deletion in the mouse ortholog of NR2E3, an orphan nuclear receptor transcription factor mutated in ESCS. Employing microarray and in situ hybridization analysis we have found that the rd7 retina contains a modestly increased number of S-opsin-expressing cells that ultrastructurally appear to be normal cones. Strikingly, the majority of the photoreceptors in the rd7 retina represent a morphologically hybrid cell type that expresses both rod- and cone-specific genes. In addition, in situ hybridization screening of genes shown to be up-regulated in the rd7 mutant retina by microarray identified ten new cone-specific or cone-enriched genes with a wide range of biochemical functions, including two genes specifically involved in glucose/glycogen metabolism. We suggest that the abnormal electroretinograms, slow retinal degeneration, and retinal dysmorphology seen in humans with ESCS may, in part, be attributable to the aberrant function of a hybrid photoreceptor cell type similar to that identified in this study. The functional diversity of the novel cone-specific genes identified here indicates molecular differences between rods and cones extending far beyond those previously discovered.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Hybrid Cells*
  • Mice
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Retinal Cone Photoreceptor Cells / pathology*
  • Retinal Degeneration / genetics*
  • Retinal Degeneration / pathology*
  • Retinal Rod Photoreceptor Cells / pathology*
  • Rod Opsins


  • Rod Opsins