Outcome of ABCA4 disease-associated alleles in autosomal recessive retinal dystrophies: retrospective analysis in 420 Spanish families

Ophthalmology. 2013 Nov;120(11):2332-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2013.04.002. Epub 2013 Jun 4.


Objective: To provide a comprehensive overview of all detected mutations in the ABCA4 gene in Spanish families with autosomal recessive retinal disorders, including Stargardt's disease (arSTGD), cone-rod dystrophy (arCRD), and retinitis pigmentosa (arRP), and to assess genotype-phenotype correlation and disease progression in 10 years by considering the type of variants and age at onset.

Design: Case series.

Participants: A total of 420 unrelated Spanish families: 259 arSTGD, 86 arCRD, and 75 arRP.

Methods: Spanish families were analyzed through a combination of ABCR400 genotyping microarray, denaturing high-performance liquid chromatography, and high-resolution melting scanning. Direct sequencing was used as a confirmation technique for the identified variants. Screening by multiple ligation probe analysis was used to detect possible large deletions or insertions in the ABCA4 gene. Selected families were analyzed further by next generation sequencing.

Main outcome measures: DNA sequence variants, mutation detection rates, haplotypes, age at onset, central or peripheral vision loss, and night blindness.

Results: Overall, we detected 70.5% and 36.6% of all expected ABCA4 mutations in arSTGD and arCRD patient cohorts, respectively. In the fraction of the cohort where the ABCA4 gene was sequenced completely, the detection rates reached 73.6% for arSTGD and 66.7% for arCRD. However, the frequency of possibly pathogenic ABCA4 alleles in arRP families was only slightly higher than that in the general population. Moreover, in some families, mutations in other known arRP genes segregated with the disease phenotype.

Conclusions: An increasing understanding of causal ABCA4 alleles in arSTGD and arCRD facilitates disease diagnosis and prognosis and also is paramount in selecting patients for emerging clinical trials of therapeutic interventions. Because ABCA4-associated diseases are evolving retinal dystrophies, assessment of age at onset, accurate clinical diagnosis, and genetic testing are crucial. We suggest that ABCA4 mutations may be associated with a retinitis pigmentosa-like phenotype often as a consequence of severe (null) mutations, in cases of long-term, advanced disease, or both. Patients with classical arRP phenotypes, especially from the onset of the disease, should be screened first for mutations in known arRP genes and not ABCA4.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / genetics*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age of Onset
  • Alleles
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Electroretinography
  • Fluorescein Angiography
  • Genetic Association Studies
  • Genotyping Techniques
  • Humans
  • Macular Degeneration / diagnosis
  • Macular Degeneration / genetics
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiplex Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Mutation*
  • Retinitis Pigmentosa / diagnosis
  • Retinitis Pigmentosa / genetics*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spain
  • Stargardt Disease
  • Young Adult


  • ABCA4 protein, human
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters

Supplementary concepts

  • Stargardt disease 1