Nrl-knockout mice deficient in Rpe65 fail to synthesize 11-cis retinal and cone outer segments

Kecia L. Feathers, Arkady L. Lyubarsky, Naheed W. Khan, Karen Teofilo, Anand Swaroop, David S. Williams, Edward N Pugh Jr, Debra A. Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

32 Scopus citations


PURPOSE. TO define rod and cone function further in terms of visual cycle mechanism, the retinal phenotype resulting from Rpe65 (retinoid isomerase I) deficiency in Nrl -/- mice having a single class of photoreceptors resembling wild-type cones was characterized and outcomes of retinoid supplementation evaluated. METHODS. Rpe65 -/- /Nrl -/- mice were generated by breeding Rpe65 -/- and Nrl -/- strains. Retinal histology, protein expression, retinoid content, and electroretinographic (ERG) responses were evaluated before and after treatment with 1 l-cis retinal by intraperitoneal injection. RESULTS Retinas of young Rpe65 -/- /Nrl -/- mice exhibited normal lamination, but lacked intact photoreceptor outer segments at all ages examined. Rpe65, Nrl, and rhodopsin were not detected, and S-opsin and M/L-opsin levels were reduced. Retinyl esters were the only retinoids present. In contrast, Nrl -/- mice exhibited decreased levels of retinaldehydes and retinyl esters, and elevated levels of retinols. ERG responses were elicited from Rpe65 -/- /Nrl -/- mice only at the two highest intensities over a 4-log-unit range. Significant retinal thinning and outer nuclear layer loss occurred in Rpe65 -/- Nrl -/- mice with aging. Administration of exogenous 11-cis retinal did not rescue retinal morphology or markedly improve ERG responses. CONCLUSIONS. The findings provide clarification of reported cone loss of function in Rpe65 -/- /Nrl -/- mice, now showing that chromophore absence results in destabilized cone outer segments and rapid retinal degeneration. The data support the view that rod-dominant retinas do not have a cone-specific mechanism for 11-cis retinal synthesis and have potential significance for therapeutic strategies for rescue of cone-rich retinal regions affected by disease in the aging human population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1126-1135
Number of pages10
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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    Feathers, K. L., Lyubarsky, A. L., Khan, N. W., Teofilo, K., Swaroop, A., Williams, D. S., Pugh Jr, E. N., & Thompson, D. A. (2008). Nrl-knockout mice deficient in Rpe65 fail to synthesize 11-cis retinal and cone outer segments. Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, 49(3), 1126-1135.