Inverse correlation between fatty acid transport protein 4 and vision in Leber congenital amaurosis associated with RPE65 mutation

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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America


Fatty acid transport protein 4 (FATP4), a transmembrane protein in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), is a recently identified negative regulator of the ER-associated retinal pigment epithelium (RPE)65 isomerase necessary for recycling 11-cis-retinal, the light-sensitive chromophore of both rod and cone opsin visual pigments. The role of FATP4 in the disease progression of retinal dystrophies associated with RPE65 mutations is completely unknown. Here we show that FATP4-deficiency in the RPE results in 2.8-fold and 1.7-fold increase of 11-cis- and 9-cis-retinals, respectively, improving dark-adaptation rates as well as survival and function of rods in the Rpe65 R91W knockin (KI) mouse model of Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA). Degradation of S-opsin in the proteasomes, but not in the lysosomes, was remarkably reduced in the KI mouse retinas lacking FATP4. FATP4-deficiency also significantly rescued S-opsin trafficking and M-opsin solubility in the KI retinas. The number of S-cones in the inferior retinas of 4- or 6-mo-old KI;Fatp4−/− mice was 7.6- or 13.5-fold greater than those in age-matched KI mice. Degeneration rates of S- and M-cones are negatively correlated with expression levels of FATP4 in the RPE of the KI, KI;Fatp4+/−, and KI;Fatp4−/− mice. Moreover, the visual function of S- and M-cones is markedly preserved in the KI;Fatp4−/− mice, displaying an inverse correlation with the FATP4 expression levels in the RPE of the three mutant lines. These findings establish FATP4 as a promising therapeutic target to improve the visual cycle, as well as survival and function of cones and rods in patients with RPE65 mutations.

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