Loss of retinoschisin (RS1) in Rs1 knock-out (Rs1-KO) retina produces a post-photoreceptor phenotype similar to X-linked retinoschisis in young males. However, Rs1 is expressed strongly in photoreceptors, and Rs1-KO mice have early reduction in the electroretinogram a-wave. We examined light-activated transducin and arrestin translocation in young Rs1-KO mice as a marker for functional abnormalities in maturing rod photoreceptors. We found a progressive reduction in luminance threshold for transducin translocation in wild-type (WT) retinas between postnatal days P18 and P60. At P21, the threshold in Rs1-KO retinas was 10-fold higher than WT, but it decreased to <2.5-fold higher by P60. Light-activated arrestin translocation and re-translocation of transducin in the dark were not affected. Rs1-KO rod outer segment (ROS) length was significantly shorter than WT at P21 but was comparable with WT at P60. These findings suggested a delay in the structural and functional maturation of Rs1-KO ROS. Consistent with this, transcription factors CRX and NRL, which are fundamental to maturation of rod protein expression, were reduced in ROS of Rs1-KO mice at P21 but not at P60. Expression of transducin was 15-30% lower in P21 Rs1-KO ROS and transducin GTPase hydrolysis was nearly twofold faster, reflecting a 1.7-to 2.5-fold increase in RGS9 (regulator of G-protein signaling) level. Transduction protein expression and activity levels were similar to WT at P60. Transducin translocation threshold elevation indicates photoreceptor functional abnormalities in young Rs1-KO mice. Rapid reduction in threshold coupled with age-related changes in transduction protein levels and transcription factor expression are consistent with delayed maturation of Rs1-KO photoreceptors.
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