A cadherin family member, prCAD, was identified in retina cDNA by subtractive hybridization and high throughput sequencing. prCAD is expressed only in retinal photoreceptors, and the prCAD protein is localized to the base of the outer segment of both rods and cones. In prCAD-/- mice, outer segments are disorganized and fragmented, and there is progressive death of photoreceptor cells. prCAD is unlikely to be involved in protein trafficking between inner and outer segments, since phototransduction proteins appear to be correctly localized and the light responses of both rods and cones are only modestly compromised in prCAD-/- mice. These experiments imply a highly specialized cell biological function for prCAD and suggest that localized adhesion activity is essential for outer segment integrity.
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