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Photoreceptor Progenitor mRNA Analysis Reveals Exon Skipping Resulting from the ABCA4 c.5461-10T→C Mutation in Stargardt Disease.

Ophthalmology 2016, vol. 123, issue 6

PURPOSE

To elucidate the functional effect of the ABCA4 variant c.5461-10T→C, one of the most frequent variants associated with Stargardt disease (STGD1).

DESIGN

Case series.

PARTICIPANTS

Seventeen persons with STGD1 carrying ABCA4 variants and 1 control participant.

METHODS

Haplotype analysis of 4 homozygotes and 11 heterozygotes for c.5461-10T→C and sequence analysis of the ABCA4 gene for a homozygous proband. Fibroblasts were reprogrammed from 3 persons with STGD1 into induced pluripotent stem cells, which were differentiated into photoreceptor progenitor cells (PPCs). The effect of the c.5461-10T→C variant on RNA splicing by reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction was analyzed using PPC mRNA. In vitro assays were performed with minigene constructs containing ABCA4 exon 39. We analyzed the natural history and ophthalmologic characteristics of 4 persons homozygous for c.5461-10T→C.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES

Haplotype and rare variant data for ABCA4, RNA splice defects, age at diagnosis, visual acuity, fundus appearance, visual field, electroretinography (ERG) results, fluorescein angiography results, and fundus autofluorescence findings.

RESULTS

The frequent ABCA4 variant c.5461-10T→C has a subtle effect on splicing based on prediction programs. A founder haplotype containing c.5461-10T→C was found to span approximately 96 kb of ABCA4 and did not contain other rare sequence variants. Patient-derived PPCs showed skipping of exon 39 or exons 39 and 40 in the mRNA. HEK293T cell transduction with minigenes carrying exon 39 showed that the splice defects were the result of the c.5461-10T→C variant. All 4 subjects carrying the c.5461-10T→C variant in a homozygous state showed a young age of STGD1 onset, with low visual acuity at presentation and abnormal cone ERG results. All 4 demonstrated severe cone-rod dystrophy before 20 years of age and were legally blind by 25 years of age.

CONCLUSIONS

The ABCA4 variant c.5461-10T→C is located on a founder haplotype lacking other disease-causing rare sequence variants. In vitro studies revealed that it leads to mRNA exon skipping and ABCA4 protein truncation. Given the severe phenotype in persons homozygous for this variant, we conclude that this variant results in the absence of ABCA4 activity.

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