RD3, the protein associated with Leber congenital amaurosis type 12, is required for guanylate cyclase trafficking in photoreceptor cells
Guanylate cyclases, GC1 and GC2, are localized in the light-sensitive outer segment compartment of photoreceptor cells, where they play a crucial role in phototransduction by catalyzing the synthesis of cGMP, the second messenger of phototransduction, and regulating intracellular Ca2+ levels in combination with the cGMP-gated channel. Mutations in GC1 are known to cause Leber congenital amaurosis type 1 (LCA1), a childhood disease associated with severe vision loss. Although the enzymatic and regulatory properties of guanylate cyclases have been studied extensively, the molecular determinants responsible for their trafficking in photoreceptors remain unknown. Here we show that RD3, a protein of unknown function encoded by a gene associated with photoreceptor degeneration in humans with Leber congenital amaurosis type 12 (LCA12), the rd3 mouse, and rcd2 collie, colocalizes and interacts with GC1 and GC2 in rod and cone photoreceptor cells of normal mice. GC1 and GC2 are undetectable in photoreceptors of the rd3 mouse deficient in RD3 by immunofluorescence microscopy. Cell expression studies show that RD3 mediates the export of GC1 from the endoplasmic reticulum to endosomal vesicles, and that the C terminus of GC1 is required for RD3 binding. Our results indicate that photoreceptor degeneration in the rd3 mouse, rcd2 dog, and LCA12 patients is caused by impaired RD3-mediated guanylate cyclase expression and trafficking. The resulting deficiency in cGMP synthesis and the constitutive closure of cGMP-gated channels might cause a reduction in intracellular Ca2+ to a level below that required for long-term photoreceptor cell survival.