Usher syndrome: animal models, retinal function of Usher proteins, and prospects for gene therapy

Vision Res. 2008 Feb;48(3):433-41. doi: 10.1016/j.visres.2007.08.015. Epub 2007 Oct 23.


Usher syndrome is a deafness-blindness disorder. The blindness occurs from a progressive retinal degeneration that begins after deafness and after the retina has developed. Three clinical subtypes of Usher syndrome have been identified, with mutations in any one of six different genes giving rise to type 1, in any one of three different genes to type 2, and in one identified gene causing Usher type 3. Mutant mice for most of the genes have been studied; while they have clear inner ear defects, retinal phenotypes are relatively mild and have been difficult to characterize. The retinal functions of the Usher proteins are still largely unknown. Protein binding studies have suggested many interactions among the proteins, and a model of interaction among all the proteins in the photoreceptor synapse has been proposed. However this model is not supported by localization data from some laboratories, or the indication of any synaptic phenotype in mutant mice. An earlier suggestion, based on patient pathologies, of Usher protein function in the photoreceptor cilium continues to gain support from immunolocalization and mutant mouse studies, which are consistent with Usher protein interaction in the photoreceptor ciliary/periciliary region. So far, the most characterized Usher protein is myosin VIIa. It is present in the apical RPE and photoreceptor ciliary/periciliary region, where it is required for organelle transport and clearance of opsin from the connecting cilium, respectively. Usher syndrome is amenable to gene replacement therapy, but also has some specific challenges. Progress in this treatment approach has been achieved by correction of mutant phenotypes in Myo7a-null mouse retinas, following lentiviral delivery of MYO7A.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Dyneins / genetics
  • Dyneins / physiology
  • Eye Proteins / genetics
  • Eye Proteins / physiology*
  • Genetic Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mutation
  • Myosin VIIa
  • Myosins / genetics
  • Myosins / physiology
  • Retina / metabolism
  • Usher Syndromes / genetics*
  • Usher Syndromes / physiopathology
  • Usher Syndromes / therapy


  • Eye Proteins
  • MYO7A protein, human
  • Myo7a protein, mouse
  • Myosin VIIa
  • Myosins
  • Dyneins