During development, visual photoreceptors, bipolar cells and other neurons establish connections within the retina enabling the eye to process visual images over approximately 7 log units of illumination1. Within the retina, cells that respond to light increment and light decrement are separated into ON- and OFF-pathways. Hereditary diseases are known to disturb these retinal pathways, causing either progressive degeneration or stationary deficits2. Congenital stationary night blindness (CSNB) is a group of stable retinal disorders that are characterized by abnormal night vision. Genetic subtypes of CSNB have been defined and different disease actions have been postulated3-5. The molecular bases have been elucidated in several subtypes, providing a better understanding of the disease mechanisms and developmental retinal neurobiology2. Here we have studied 22 families with 'complete' X-linked CSNB (CSNB1; MIM 310500; ref. 4) in which affected males have night blindness, some photopic vision loss and a defect of the ON-pathway. We have found 14 different mutations, including 1 founder mutation in 7 families from the United States, in a novel candidate gene, NYX. NYX, which encodes a glycosylphosphatidyl (GPI)-anchored protein called nyctalopin, is a new and unique member of the small leucine-rich proteoglycan (SLRP) family6. The role of other SLRP proteins suggests that mutant nyctalopin disrupts developing retinal interconnections involving the ON-bipolar cells, leading to the visual losses seen in patients with complete CSNB.
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