, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 149-158

The nature of dominant mutations of rhodopsin and implications for gene therapy

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Mutations in the rhodopsin gene are the most common cause of retinitis pigmentosa (RP) among human patients. The nature of the rhodopsin mutations has critical implications for the design of strategies for gene therapy. Nearly all rhodopsin mutations are dominant. Although dominance does not arise because of haploinsufficiency, it is unclear whether it is caused by gain-of-function or dominant-negative mutations. Current strategies for gene therapy have been devised to deal with toxic, gain-of-function mutations. However, analysis of results of transgenic and targeted expression of various rhodopsin genes in mice suggests that dominance may arise as a result of dominant-negative mutations. This has important consequences for gene therapy. The effects of dominant-negative mutations can be alleviated, in principle, by supplementation with additional wild-type rhodopsin. If added wild-type rhodopsin could slow retinal degeneration in human patients, as it does in mice, it would represent a valuable new strategy for gene therapy of RP caused by dominant rhodopsin mutations.