Hereditary cone disorders (CDs) are characterized by defects of the cone photoreceptors or retinal pigment epithelium underlying the macula, and include achromatopsia (ACHM), cone dystrophy (COD), cone-rod dystrophy (CRD), color vision impairment, Stargardt disease (STGD) and other maculopathies. Forty-two genes have been implicated in non-syndromic inherited CDs. Mutations in the 5 genes implicated in ACHM explain ∼93% of the cases. On the contrary, only 21% of CRDs (17 genes) and 25% of CODs (8 genes) have been elucidated. The fact that the large majority of COD and CRD-associated genes are yet to be discovered hints towards the existence of unknown cone-specific or cone-sensitive processes. The ACHM-associated genes encode proteins that fulfill crucial roles in the cone phototransduction cascade, which is the most frequently compromised (10 genes) process in CDs. Another 7 CD-associated proteins are required for transport processes towards or through the connecting cilium. The remaining CD-associated proteins are involved in cell membrane morphogenesis and maintenance, synaptic transduction, and the retinoid cycle. Further novel genes are likely to be identified in the near future by combining large-scale DNA sequencing and transcriptomics technologies. For 31 of 42 CD-associated genes, mammalian models are available, 14 of which have successfully been used for gene augmentation studies. However, gene augmentation for CDs should ideally be developed in large mammalian models with cone-rich areas, which are currently available for only 11 CD genes. Future research will aim to elucidate the remaining causative genes, identify the molecular mechanisms of CD, and develop novel therapies aimed at preventing vision loss in individuals with CD in the future.
Keywords: Animal model; Cone disorder; Photoreceptors; Retina; Therapy.
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