Phenotypic characterization of P23H and S334ter rhodopsin transgenic rat models of inherited retinal degeneration

Exp Eye Res. 2018 Feb;167:56-90. doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2017.10.023. Epub 2017 Nov 6.


We produced 8 lines of transgenic (Tg) rats expressing one of two different rhodopsin mutations in albino Sprague-Dawley (SD) rats. Three lines were generated with a proline to histidine substitution at codon 23 (P23H), the most common autosomal dominant form of retinitis pigmentosa in the United States. Five lines were generated with a termination codon at position 334 (S334ter), resulting in a C-terminal truncated opsin protein lacking the last 15 amino acid residues and containing all of the phosphorylation sites involved in rhodopsin deactivation, as well as the terminal QVAPA residues important for rhodopsin deactivation and trafficking. The rates of photoreceptor (PR) degeneration in these models vary in proportion to the ratio of mutant to wild-type rhodopsin. The models have been widely studied, but many aspects of their phenotypes have not been described. Here we present a comprehensive study of the 8 Tg lines, including the time course of PR degeneration from the onset to one year of age, retinal structure by light and electron microscopy (EM), hemispheric asymmetry and gradients of rod and cone degeneration, rhodopsin content, gene dosage effect, rapid activation and invasion of the outer retina by presumptive microglia, rod outer segment disc shedding and phagocytosis by the retinal pigmented epithelium (RPE), and retinal function by the electroretinogram (ERG). The biphasic nature of PR cell death was noted, as was the lack of an injury-induced protective response in the rat models. EM analysis revealed the accumulation of submicron vesicular structures in the interphotoreceptor space during the peak period of PR outer segment degeneration in the S334ter lines. This is likely due to the elimination of the trafficking consensus domain as seen before as with other rhodopsin mutants lacking the C-terminal QVAPA. The 8 rhodopsin Tg lines have been, and will continue to be, extremely useful models for the experimental study of inherited retinal degenerations.

Keywords: Animal model; P23H; Rat; Retinitis pigmentosa; Rhodopsin; S334ter.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Electroretinography
  • Microscopy
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Phenotype
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Vertebrate / pathology*
  • Point Mutation*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Rats, Transgenic
  • Retina / physiology*
  • Retinal Degeneration / genetics*
  • Retinal Degeneration / pathology*
  • Retinal Degeneration / physiopathology
  • Rhodopsin / genetics*


  • Rhodopsin