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Pathways and disease-causing alterations in visual chromophore production for vertebrate vision


All that we view of the world begins with an ultrafast cis to trans photoisomerization of the retinylidene chromophore associated with the visual pigments of rod and cone photoreceptors. The continual responsiveness of these photoreceptors is then sustained by regeneration processes that convert the trans-retinoid back to an 11-cis configuration. Recent biochemical and electrophysiological analyses of the retinal G-protein-coupled receptor (RGR) suggest that it could sustain the responsiveness of photoreceptor cells, particularly cones, even under bright light conditions. Thus, two mechanisms have evolved to accomplish the reisomerization: one involving the well-studied retinoid isomerase (RPE65) and a second photoisomerase reaction mediated by the RGR. Impairments to the pathways that transform all-trans-retinal back to 11-cis-retinal are associated with mild to severe forms of retinal dystrophy. Moreover, with age there also is a decline in the rate of chromophore regeneration. Both pharmacological and genetic approaches are being used to bypass visual cycle defects and consequently mitigate blinding diseases. Rapid progress in the use of genome editing also is paving the way for the treatment of disparate retinal diseases. In this review, we provide an update on visual cycle biochemistry and then discuss visual-cycle-related diseases and emerging therapeutics for these disorders. There is hope that these advances will be helpful in treating more complex diseases of the eye, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

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