PCR analysis of DNA from 70-year-old sections of rodless retina demonstrates identity with the mouse rd defect

Academic Article


  • Rodless retina (gene symbol, r) was discovered in mice by Keeler 70 years ago and was first described in this journal as an autosomal recessive mutation leading to "the absence of the visual cells (rods), the external nuclear layer, and the external molecular layer" [Keeler, C. E. (1924) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 10, 329-333]. The mutation was studied by Keeler and others in the United States and Europe over the next decade, but Keeler's stock was destroyed in 1939, and mice definitively related to his by pedigree and progeny tests also appeared to have been lost by the end of World War II. In the early 1950s Bruckner in Basel recognized mice with a similar retinal phenotype. Investigators in London and Strasbourg analyzed descendants of Bruckner's mice and concluded, on the basis of different pathogenesis from r, that they carried a new mutation, which came later to be called retinal degeneration, rd. The relationship of r and rd has been unsettled ever since. Now that the rd phenotype is known to be due to a nonsense mutation in the rod photoreceptor cGMP phosphodiesterase β-subunit gene, we hoped to settle the question by direct analysis of r DNA. DNA was liberated from 70-year-old histological sections of +/r and r/r eyes, the only extant r DNA, and the regions encompassing the nonsense mutation amplified by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Sequence analysis of the PCR products revealed the presence of the same nonsense mutation and two intron polymorphisms in r DNA. PCR and direct sequence analysis of 11 strains of mice known to carry rd (or a similar allele) also revealed the presence of the nonsense mutation and the same intron polymorphisms. The fact that all r and rd mice contain an identical defect and intron polymorphisms in the phosphodiesterase β-subunit gene settles beyond reasonable doubt that a single mutation arising >70 years ago is now widely distributed through inbred mouse strains. Because of the extensive use of the name in publications of the past 40 years, we propose that the gene continue to be designated retinal degeneration, rd.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Pittler SJ; Keeler CE; Sidman RL; Baehr W
  • Start Page

  • 9616
  • End Page

  • 9619
  • Volume

  • 90
  • Issue

  • 20