Centrosome- and cilia-associated proteins play crucial roles in establishing polarity and regulating intracellular transport in post-mitotic cells. Using genetic mapping and positional candidate strategy, we have identified an in-frame deletion in a novel centrosomal protein CEP290 (also called NPHP6), leading to early-onset retinal degeneration in a newly identified mouse mutant, rd16. We demonstrate that CEP290 localizes primarily to centrosomes of dividing cells and to the connecting cilium of retinal photoreceptors. We show that, in the retina, CEP290 associates with several microtubule-based transport proteins including RPGR, which is mutated in approximately 15% of patients with retinitis pigmentosa. A truncated CEP290 protein (DeltaCEP290) is detected in the rd16 retina, but in considerably reduced amounts; however, the mutant protein exhibits stronger association with specific RPGR isoform(s). Immunogold labeling studies demonstrate the redistribution of RPGR and of phototransduction proteins in the photoreceptors of rd16 retina. Our findings suggest a critical function for CEP290 in ciliary transport and provide insights into the mechanism of early-onset photoreceptor degeneration.
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