Mutations in the pre-mRNA splicing factor gene PRPC8 in autosomal dominant retinitis pigmentosa (RP13)
Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is a genetically heterogeneous disorder characterized by progressive degeneration of the peripheral retina leading to night blindness and loss of visual fields. With an incidence of approximately 1 in 4000, RP can be inherited in X-linked, autosomal dominant or autosomal recessive modes. The RP13 locus for autosomal dominant RP (adRP) was placed on chromosome 17p13.3 by linkage mapping in a large South African adRP family. Using a positional cloning and candidate gene strategy, we have identified seven different missense mutations in the splicing factor gene PRPC8 in adRP families. Three of the mutations cosegregate within three RP13 linked families including the original large South African pedigree, and four additional mutations have been identified in other unrelated adRP families. The seven mutations are clustered within a 14 codon stretch within the last exon of this large 7 kb transcript. The altered amino acid residues at the C-terminus exhibit a high degree of conservation across species as diverse as humans, Arabidopsis and trypanosome, suggesting that some functional significance is associated with this part of the protein. These mutations in this ubiquitous and highly conserved splicing factor offer compelling evidence for a novel pathway to retinal degeneration.