- Deficiency of RD3 (retinal degeneration 3) protein causes recessive blindness and photoreceptor degeneration in humans and in the rd3 mouse strain, but the disease mechanism is unclear. Here, we present evidence that RD3 protects photoreceptors from degeneration by competing with guanylyl cyclase-activating proteins (GCAPs), which are calcium sensor proteins for retinal membrane guanylyl cyclase (RetGC). RetGC activity in rd3/rd3 retinas was drastically reduced but stimulated by the endogenous GCAPs at low Ca2+ concentrations.
- Light adaptation of photoreceptor cells is mediated by Ca2+-dependent mechanisms. In darkness, Ca2+ influx through cGMP-gated channels into the outer segment of photoreceptors is balanced by Ca2+ extrusion via Na+/Ca2+, K+ exchangers (NCKXs). Light activates a G protein signaling cascade, which closes cGMP-gated channels and decreases Ca2+ levels in photoreceptor outer segment because of continuing Ca2+ extrusion by NCKXs. Guanylate cyclase–activating proteins (GCAPs) then up-regulate cGMP synthesis by activating retinal membrane guanylate cyclases (RetGCs) in low Ca2+.
- Substitutions of Arg838 in the dimerization domain of a human retinal membrane guanylyl cyclase 1 (RetGC1) linked to autosomal dominant cone-rod degeneration type 6 (CORD6) change RetGC1 regulation in vitro by Ca2+. In addition, we find that R838S substitution makes RetGC1 less sensitive to inhibition by retinal degeneration-3 protein (RD3). We selectively expressed human R838S RetGC1 in mouse rods and documented the decline in rod vision and rod survival. To verify that changes in rods were specifically caused by the CORD6 mutation, we used for comparison cones, which in the same mice did not express R838S RetGC1 from the transgenic construct.
- GCAP1, a member of the neuronal calcium sensor subclass of the calmodulin superfamily, confers Ca2+-sensitive activation of retinal guanylyl cyclase 1 (RetGC1). We present NMR resonance assignments, residual dipolar coupling data, functional analysis, and a structural model of GCAP1 mutant (GCAP1V77E) in the Ca2+-free/Mg2+-bound state. NMR chemical shifts and residual dipolar coupling data reveal Ca2+-dependent differences for residues 170–174. An NMR-derived model of GCAP1V77E contains Mg2+ bound at EF2 and looks similar to Ca2+ saturated GCAP1 (root mean square deviations = 2.0 Å).