Inherited retinal diseases are a common cause of visual impairment in children and young adults, often resulting in severe loss of vision in later life. The most frequent form of inherited retinopathy is retinitis pigmentosa (RP), with an approximate incidence of I in 3,500 individuals worldwide. RP is characterized by night blindness and progressive degeneration of the midperipheral retina, accompanied by bone spicule-like pigmentary deposits and a reduced or absent electroretinogram (ERG). The disease process culminates in severe reduction of visual fields or blindness. RP is genetically heterogeneous, with autosomal dominant, autosomal recessive and X-linked forms. Here we have identified two mutations in a novel retina- specific gene from chromosome 8q that cause the RP1 form of autosomal dominant RP in three unrelated families. The protein encoded by this gene is 2,156 amino acids and its function is currently unknown, although the amino terminus has similarity to that of the doublecortin protein, whose gene (DCX) has been implicated in lissencephaly in humans. Two families have a nonsense mutation in codon 677 of this gene (Arg677stop), whereas the third family has a nonsense mutation in codon 679 (Gln679stop). In one family, two individuals homozygous for the mutant gene have more severe retinal disease compared with heterozygotes.
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