Prenylation is essential for the enrichment of cone phosphodiesterase-6 (PDE6) in outer segments and efficient cone phototransduction

Hum Mol Genet. 2023 Aug 26;32(17):2735-2750. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddad108.


Phosphodiesterase-6 (PDE6) is the key phototransduction effector enzyme residing in the outer segment (OS) of photoreceptors. Cone PDE6 is a tetrameric protein consisting of two inhibitory subunits (γ') and two catalytic subunits (α'). The catalytic subunit of cone PDE6 contains a C-terminus prenylation motif. Deletion of PDE6α' C-terminal prenylation motif is linked to achromatopsia (ACHM), a type of color blindness in humans. However, mechanisms behind the disease and roles for lipidation of cone PDE6 in vision are unknown. In this study, we generated two knock-in mouse models expressing mutant variants of cone PDE6α' lacking the prenylation motif (PDE6α'∆C). We find that the C-terminal prenylation motif is the primary determinant for the association of cone PDE6 protein with membranes. Cones from PDE6α'∆C homozygous mice are less sensitive to light, and their response to light is delayed, whereas cone function in heterozygous PDE6α'∆C/+ mice is unaffected. Surprisingly, the expression level and assembly of cone PDE6 protein were unaltered in the absence of prenylation. Unprenylated assembled cone PDE6 in PDE6α'∆C homozygous animals is mislocalized and enriched in the cone inner segment and synaptic terminal. Interestingly, the disk density and the overall length of cone OS in PDE6α'∆C homozygous mutants are altered, highlighting a novel structural role for PDE6 in maintaining cone OS length and morphology. The survival of cones in the ACHM model generated in this study bodes well for gene therapy as a treatment option for restoring vision in patients with similar mutations in the PDE6C gene.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cyclic Nucleotide Phosphodiesterases, Type 6* / genetics
  • Cyclic Nucleotide Phosphodiesterases, Type 6* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Light Signal Transduction
  • Mice
  • Prenylation
  • Retinal Cone Photoreceptor Cells* / metabolism


  • Cyclic Nucleotide Phosphodiesterases, Type 6

Supplementary concepts

  • Achromatopsia 3