We have analyzed L/M visual pigment gene arrays in 119 Japanese men with protanopia color vision defect and found that five had a normal gene order of L-M. Among the five men, two (identified as A376 and A642) had apparently normal L genes. To clarify their L gene defect, the whole L or M gene from A376 and control subjects was cloned in an expression vector. Total RNA extracted from the transfected HEK293 cells was analyzed by Northern blot and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction. The product from the cloned L gene of A376 was smaller than the normal control due to the absence of exon 3. To investigate such exon-skipping at splicing, minigenes of exon 3 accompanying introns 2 and 3 were prepared from A376, A642, and control subjects. The minigenes of A376 (L) and A642 (L) showed the product lacking exon 3 only, while the minigene of normal control N44 (L) showed the product retaining exon 3 only. Exchanging of introns 2 and 3 between the A376 (L) and N44 (L) minigenes showed that the skipping of exon 3 was caused by the exon itself. Seven differences in exon 3 between A376 (L) and N44 (L) were all within already-known polymorphisms as follows: G(151-3), C(153-1), G(155-3), A(171-1), T(171-3), G(178-1) and G(180-1) in A376 (L) and A642 (L), and A(151-3), A(153-1), C(155-3), G(171-1), G(171-3), A(178-1) and T(180-1) in N44 (L). An in vitro mutagenesis experiment with these nucleotides in the minigenes showed that exon 3 was completely skipped at splicing only in the haplotype observed in A376 (L) and A642 (L). These results suggest that complete skipping of exon 3 at splicing, due to the unique haplotype of the exon, causes loss of expression of L-opsin in these men.
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