FAM161A, associated with retinitis pigmentosa, is a component of the cilia-basal body complex and interacts with proteins involved in ciliopathies

Hum Mol Genet. 2012 Dec 1;21(23):5174-84. doi: 10.1093/hmg/dds368. Epub 2012 Sep 1.


Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is a retinal degenerative disease characterized by the progressive loss of photoreceptors. We have previously demonstrated that RP can be caused by recessive mutations in the human FAM161A gene, encoding a protein with unknown function that contains a conserved region shared only with a distant paralog, FAM161B. In this study, we show that FAM161A localizes at the base of the photoreceptor connecting cilium in human, mouse and rat. Furthermore, it is also present at the ciliary basal body in ciliated mammalian cells, both in native conditions and upon the expression of recombinant tagged proteins. Yeast two-hybrid analysis of binary interactions between FAM161A and an array of ciliary and ciliopathy-associated proteins reveals direct interaction with lebercilin, CEP290, OFD1 and SDCCAG8, all involved in hereditary retinal degeneration. These interactions are mediated by the C-terminal moiety of FAM161A, as demonstrated by pull-down experiments in cultured cell lines and in bovine retinal extracts. As other ciliary proteins, FAM161A can also interact with the microtubules and organize itself into microtubule-dependent intracellular networks. Moreover, small interfering RNA-mediated depletion of FAM161A transcripts in cultured cells causes the reduction in assembled primary cilia. Taken together, these data indicate that FAM161A-associated RP can be considered as a novel retinal ciliopathy and that its molecular pathogenesis may be related to other ciliopathies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Line
  • Cilia / metabolism
  • Eye Proteins / genetics*
  • Eye Proteins / metabolism
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Vertebrate / metabolism
  • Photoreceptor Connecting Cilium / metabolism*
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Transport
  • RNA Interference
  • Rats
  • Retina / metabolism
  • Retina / pathology
  • Retinitis Pigmentosa / genetics*
  • Retinitis Pigmentosa / metabolism*


  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Eye Proteins
  • FAM161A protein, human