Functional analysis of human CNGA3 mutations associated with colour blindness suggests impaired surface expression of channel mutants A3R427C and A3R563C


K. Koeppen, as above.


Mutations in the CNGA3 gene have been associated with complete and incomplete forms of total colour blindness (achromatopsia), a disorder characterized by reduced visual acuity, lack of colour discrimination, photophobia and nystagmus. CNGA3 encodes the A-subunit of the cone photoreceptor cyclic nucleotide-gated (CNG) channel, an essential component of the phototransduction cascade. Here we report the identification of three new CNGA3 mutations in patients with achromatopsia. To assess the pathogenicity of these newly identified and four previously reported mutations, mutant CNGA3 channels were heterologously expressed in a human embryonic kidney cell line (HEK293 cells) and functionally analysed using calcium imaging. Channels with the mutations R427C and R563C showed a response in imaging experiments and were subsequently characterized in-depth with the patch-clamp technique. The mutant channels were analysed as homooligomers and also as heterooligomers with the wild-type B-subunit present in native channels. Overall, cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) maximum currents of mutant channels were profoundly reduced in homo- and heteromers. Treatment with the chemical chaperone glycerol effectively increased macroscopic currents, presumably by enhancing surface expression of mutant channels as confirmed by immunocytochemistry. These results suggest decreased channel density in the cell membrane due to impaired folding or trafficking of the channel protein as the main pathogenic effect of the mutations R427C and R563C. Moreover, A3R427C homomers showed distinctly increased cGMP and cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) sensitivities as well as cAMP fractional currents that were raised to over 90% of cGMP maximum currents. Co-expression of A3R427C with the B3 subunit compensated for most of these aberrant properties, apart from the reduced cGMP maximum currents.