Constitutive "light" adaptation in rods from G90D rhodopsin: A mechanism for human congenital nightblindness without rod cell loss

Paul A. Sieving, Michael L. Fowler, Ronald A. Bush, Shigeki Machida, Peter D. Calvert, Daniel G. Green, Clint L. Makino, Christina L. McHenry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


A dominant form of human congenital nightblindness is caused by a gly90→asp (G90D) mutation in rhodopsin. G90D has been shown to activate the phototransduction cascade in the absence of light in vitro. Such constitutive activity of G90D rhodopsin in vivo would desensitize rod photoreceptors and lead to nightblindness. In contrast, other rhodopsin mutations typically give rise to nightblindness by causing rod cell death. Thus, the proposed desensitization without rod degeneration would be a novel mechanism for this disorder. To explore this possibility, we induced mice to express G90D opsin in their rods and then examined rod function and morphology, after first crossing the transgenic animals with rhodopsin knock-out mice to obtain appropriate levels of opsin expression. The G90D mouse opsin bound the chromophore and formed a bleachable visual pigment with λmax of 492 nm that supported rod photoresponses. (G+/-, R+/-) retinas, heterozygous for both G90D and wildtype (WT) rhodopsin, possessed normal numbers of photoreceptors and had a normal rhodopsin complement but exhibited considerable loss of rod sensitivity as measured electroretinographically. The rod photoresponses were desensitized, and the response time to peak was faster than in (R+/-) animals. An equivalent desensitization resulted by exposing WT retinas to a background light producing 82 photoisomerizations rod-1 sec-1, suggesting that G90D rods in darkness act as if they are partially "light-adapted." Adding a second G90D allele gave (G+/+, R+/-) animals that exhibited a further increase of equivalent background light level but had no rod cell loss by 24 weeks of age. (G+/+, R-/-) retinas that express only the mutant rhodopsin develop normal rod outer segments and show minimal rod cell loss even at 1 year of age. We conclude that G90D is constitutively active in mouse rods in vivo but that it does not cause significant rod degeneration. Instead, G90D desensitizes rods by a process equivalent to light adaptation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5449-5460
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 1 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Congenital nightblindness
  • Constitutive activity
  • Light adaptation
  • Photoresponse
  • Retinal degeneration
  • Rhodopsin
  • Rod photoreceptor
  • Transgenic mouse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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