The inhibitory rod cGMP phosphodiesterase γ subunit (PDEγ) is a major component of the photoresponse and is required to support rod integrity. Pdegtm1/Pdegtm1 mice (which lack PDEγ owing to a targeted disruption of the Pdeg gene) suffer from a very rapid and severe photoreceptor degeneration. The Y84G (Tyr84 → Gly) allele of PDEγ has previously been shown in experiments carried out in vitro to reduce the regulatory control of the PDE catalytic core (PDEαβ) exerted by the wild-type γ subunit. To determine the effects of this mutation on in vivo function, the murine opsin promoter was used to direct expression to the photoreceptors of +/Pdegtm1 mice of a mutant Y84G and a wild-type PDEγ control transgene. The transgenic mice were crossed with Pdegtm1/Pdegtm1 mice to generate animals able to synthesize only the transgenic PDEγ. Our results showed that wild-type PDEγ and Y84G transgenes could complement the Pdegtm1/Pdegtm1 mutant for photoreceptor survival. The mutation caused a significant biochemical defect in PDE activation by transducin. However, the Y84G mutation did not fully eliminate the control of PDEγ on the PDE catalytic core in vivo; the expression of the mutant subunit was associated with only a 10-fold reduction in the amplitude of the a-wave and a 1.5-fold decrease in the b-wave of the corneal electroretinogram. Unexpectedly, the mutation caused a much ‘milder’ phenotype in vivo than was predicted from the biochemical assays in vitro.
These authors contributed equally to the work.