Mutations in the retinitis pigmentosa GTPase regulator (RPGR) gene account for almost 20% of patients with retinitis pigmentosa. Most mutations are detected in alternatively spliced RPGR-ORF15 isoform(s), which are primarily but not exclusively expressed in the retina. We show that, in addition to the axoneme, the RPGR-ORF15 protein is localized to the basal bodies of photoreceptor connecting cilium and to the tip and axoneme of sperm flagella. Mass spectrometric analysis of proteins that were immunoprecipitated from the retinal axoneme-enriched fraction using an anti-ORF15 antibody identified two chromosome-associated proteins, structural maintenance of chromosomes (SMC) 1 and SMC3. Using pulldown assays, we demonstrate that the interaction of RPGR with SMC1 and SMC3 is mediated, at least in part, by the RCC1-like domain of RPGR. This interaction was not observed with phosphorylation-deficient mutants of SMC1. Both SMC1 and SMC3 localized to the cilia of retinal photoreceptors and Madin-Darby canine kidney cells, suggesting a broader physiological relevance of this interaction. Additional immunoprecipitation studies revealed the association of RPGR-ORF15 isoform(s) with the intraflagellar transport polypeptide IFT88 as well as microtubule motor proteins, including KIF3A, p150Glued, and p50-dynamitin. Inhibition of dynein function by overexpressing p50 abrogated the localization of RPGR-ORF15 to basal bodies. Taken together, these results provide novel evidence for the possible involvement of RPGR-ORF15 in microtubule organization and regulation of transport in primary cilia.
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