Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is a group of progressive inherited retinal dystrophies that cause visual impairment as a result of photoreceptor cell death. RP is heterogeneous, both clinically and genetically making difficult to establish precise genotype-phenotype correlations. In a Spanish family with autosomal recessive RP (arRP), homozygosity mapping and whole-exome sequencing led to the identification of a homozygous mutation (c.358_359delGT; p.Ala122Leufs*2) in the ZNF408 gene. A screening performed in 217 additional unrelated families revealed another homozygous mutation (c.1621C>T; p.Arg541Cys) in an isolated RP case. ZNF408 encodes a transcription factor that harbors 10 predicted C2H2-type fingers thought to be implicated in DNA binding. To elucidate the ZNF408 role in the retina and the pathogenesis of these mutations we have performed different functional studies. By immunohistochemical analysis in healthy human retina, we identified that ZNF408 is expressed in both cone and rod photoreceptors, in a specific type of amacrine and ganglion cells, and in retinal blood vessels. ZNF408 revealed a cytoplasmic localization and a nuclear distribution in areas corresponding with the euchromatin fraction. Immunolocalization studies showed a partial mislocalization of the p.Arg541Cys mutant protein retaining part of the WT protein in the cytoplasm. Our study demonstrates that ZNF408, previously associated with Familial Exudative Vitreoretinopathy (FEVR), is a new gene causing arRP with vitreous condensations supporting the evidence that this protein plays additional functions into the human retina.
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