A New Cerkl Mouse Model Generated by CRISPR-Cas9 Shows Progressive Retinal Degeneration and Altered Morphological and Electrophysiological Phenotype release_efxgdml7crbdfmvggp6o323xzm

by Elena B. Domènech, Rosa Andrés, M. José López-Iniesta, Serena Mirra, Rocío García-Arroyo, Santiago Milla, Florentina Sava, Jordi Andilla, Pablo Loza-Álvarez, Pedro de la Villa, Roser Gonzàlez-Duarte, Gemma Marfany

Published in Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science by Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO).

2020   Volume 61, Issue 8, p14


Close to 100 genes cause retinitis pigmentosa, a Mendelian rare disease that affects 1 out of 4000 people worldwide. Mutations in the ceramide kinase-like gene (CERKL) are a prevalent cause of autosomal recessive cause retinitis pigmentosa and cone-rod dystrophy, but the functional role of this gene in the retina has yet to be fully determined. We aimed to generate a mouse model that resembles the phenotypic traits of patients carrying CERKL mutations to undertake functional studies and assay therapeutic approaches. The Cerkl locus has been deleted (around 97 kb of genomic DNA) by gene editing using the CRISPR-Cas9 D10A nickase. Because the deletion of the Cerkl locus is lethal in mice in homozygosis, a double heterozygote mouse model with less than 10% residual Cerkl expression has been generated. The phenotypic alterations of the retina of this new model have been characterized at the morphological and electrophysiological levels. This CerklKD/KO model shows retinal degeneration, with a decreased number of cones and progressive photoreceptor loss, poorly stacked photoreceptor outer segment membranes, defective retinal pigment epithelium phagocytosis, and altered electrophysiological recordings in aged retinas. To our knowledge, this is the first Cerkl mouse model to mimic many of the phenotypic traits, including the slow but progressive retinal degeneration, shown by human patients carrying CERKL mutations. This useful model will provide unprecedented insights into the retinal molecular pathways altered in these patients and will contribute to the design of effective treatments.
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