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Mutations in the unfolded protein response regulator ATF6 cause the cone dysfunction disorder achromatopsia.

Nature genetics (2015-06-02)
Susanne Kohl, Ditta Zobor, Wei-Chieh Chiang, Nicole Weisschuh, Jennifer Staller, Irene Gonzalez Menendez, Stanley Chang, Susanne C Beck, Marina Garcia Garrido, Vithiyanjali Sothilingam, Mathias W Seeliger, Franco Stanzial, Francesco Benedicenti, Francesca Inzana, Elise Héon, Ajoy Vincent, Jill Beis, Tim M Strom, Günther Rudolph, Susanne Roosing, Anneke I den Hollander, Frans P M Cremers, Irma Lopez, Huanan Ren, Anthony T Moore, Andrew R Webster, Michel Michaelides, Robert K Koenekoop, Eberhart Zrenner, Randal J Kaufman, Stephen H Tsang, Bernd Wissinger, Jonathan H Lin
ABSTRACT

Achromatopsia (ACHM) is an autosomal recessive disorder characterized by color blindness, photophobia, nystagmus and severely reduced visual acuity. Using homozygosity mapping and whole-exome and candidate gene sequencing, we identified ten families carrying six homozygous and two compound-heterozygous mutations in the ATF6 gene (encoding activating transcription factor 6A), a key regulator of the unfolded protein response (UPR) and cellular endoplasmic reticulum (ER) homeostasis. Patients had evidence of foveal hypoplasia and disruption of the cone photoreceptor layer. The ACHM-associated ATF6 mutations attenuate ATF6 transcriptional activity in response to ER stress. Atf6(-/-) mice have normal retinal morphology and function at a young age but develop rod and cone dysfunction with increasing age. This new ACHM-related gene suggests a crucial and unexpected role for ATF6A in human foveal development and cone function and adds to the list of genes that, despite ubiquitous expression, when mutated can result in an isolated retinal photoreceptor phenotype.

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