Purpose: To identify mutations in FAM161A underlying autosomal recessive retinitis pigmentosa (arRP) in the Dutch and Belgian populations and to investigate whether common FAM161A-associated phenotypic features could be identified.
Methods: Homozygosity mapping, amplification-refractory mutation system (ARMS) analysis, and Sanger sequencing were performed to identify mutations in FAM161A. Microsatellite and SNP markers were genotyped for haplotype analysis. Patients with biallelic mutations underwent detailed ophthalmologic examinations, including measuring best-corrected visual acuity, extensive fundus photography with reflectance and autofluorescence imaging, and optical coherence tomography.
Results: Homozygosity mapping in 230 Dutch individuals with suspected arRP yielded five individuals with a homozygous region harboring FAM161A. Sanger sequencing revealed a homozygous nonsense mutation (c.1309A>T; p.[Arg437*]) in one individual. Subsequent ARMS analysis and Sanger sequencing in Dutch and Belgian arRP patients resulted in the identification of seven additional individuals carrying the p.(Arg437*) mutation, either homozygously or compound heterozygously with another mutation. Haplotype analysis identified a shared haplotype block of 409 kb surrounding the p.(Arg437*) mutation in all patients, suggesting a founder effect. Although the age of onset was variable among patients, all eight developed pronounced outer retinal loss with severe visual field defects and a bull's eye-like maculopathy, followed by loss of central vision within 2 decades after the initial diagnosis in five subjects.
Conclusions: A founder mutation in FAM161A p.(Arg437*) underlies approximately 2% of arRP cases in the Dutch and Belgian populations. The age of onset of the retinal dystrophy appears variable, but progression can be steep, with almost complete loss of central vision later in life.