Phenotype in retinol deficiency due to a hereditary defect in retinol binding protein synthesis

Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 1999 Jan;40(1):3-11.


Purpose: To describe the phenotype caused by a retinol deficiency in a family with compound heterozygous missense mutations (Ile41Asn and Gly75Asp) in the gene for serum retinol binding protein (RBP).

Methods: The two affected sisters, 17 (BR) and 13 (MR) years old, were examined clinically and with perimetry, color vision tests, dark adaptometry, rod- and cone-isolated electroretinograms (ERGs), multifocal ERGs, electrooculograms (EOGs), and laboratory tests.

Results: There were no complaints besides night vision problems and no history of systemic disease. Visual acuity was reduced to 20/40 (BR) and 20/25 (MR). Anterior segments were normal except for a discrete iris coloboma. Both patients showed a typical "fundus xerophthalmicus," featuring a progressed atrophy of the retinal pigment epithelium. Dark adaptation thresholds were elevated. In the scotopic ERG, only reduced mixed responses were recordable. The photopic ERG was reduced in BR and normal in MR; implicit times were highly (BR) to slightly (MR) elevated. There was no (BR) to little (MR) light reaction in the EOG. All-trans retinol levels were 0.19 microM and 0.18 microM (normal range, 0.7-1.5 microM) for BR and MR, respectively, and did not increase in a dose-response test. RBP was below detection threshold, and retinyl esters were normal.

Conclusions: Both affected siblings had no detectable serum RBP, one sixth of normal retinol levels, and normal retinyl esters. The retinal pigment epithelium was severely affected, but besides acne there were no changes to other organs. This gives evidence for an alternative tissue source of vitamin A, presumably retinyl esters from chylomicron remnants. The normal retinol levels in the tear fluid explain the lack of xerophthalmia. However, considering the role of RBP in the tear fluid and, during development, in the yolk sac there is also evidence that there are organ-specific RBP forms not affected by the genetic defect.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Atrophy
  • Avitaminosis / genetics*
  • Avitaminosis / pathology
  • Avitaminosis / physiopathology
  • Coloboma / pathology
  • Color Perception Tests
  • Dark Adaptation
  • Electrooculography
  • Electroretinography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iris / abnormalities
  • Mutation, Missense*
  • Night Blindness / genetics
  • Night Blindness / pathology
  • Night Blindness / physiopathology
  • Nuclear Family
  • Phenotype
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Vertebrate / physiology
  • Pigment Epithelium of Eye / pathology
  • Retinol-Binding Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Retinol-Binding Proteins / genetics*
  • Visual Acuity
  • Visual Field Tests
  • Vitamin A / blood


  • Retinol-Binding Proteins
  • Vitamin A