Achromatopsia (ACHM) is an autosomal recessive disease that results in severe visual loss. Symptoms of ACHM include impaired visual acuity, nystagmus, and photoaversion starting from infancy; furthermore, ACHM is associated with bilateral foveal hypoplasia and absent or severely reduced cone photoreceptor function on electroretinography. Here, we performed genetic sequencing in 3 patients from 2 families with ACHM, identifying and functionally characterizing 2 mutations in the activating transcription factor 6 (ATF6) gene. We identified a homozygous deletion covering exons 8–14 of the ATF6 gene from 2 siblings from the same family. In another patient from a different family, we identified a heterozygous deletion covering exons 2 and 3 of the ATF6 gene found in trans with a previously identified ATF6 c.970C>T (p.Arg324Cys) ACHM disease allele. Recombinant ATF6 proteins bearing these exon deletions showed markedly impaired transcriptional activity by qPCR and RNA-Seq analysis compared with WT-ATF6. Finally, RNAscope revealed that ATF6 and the related ATF6B transcripts were expressed in cones as well as in all retinal layers in normal human retina. Overall, our data identify loss-of-function ATF6 disease alleles that cause human foveal disease.
Eun-Jin Lee, Wei-Chieh Jerry Chiang, Heike Kroeger, Chloe Xiaoke Bi, Daniel L. Chao, Dorota Skowronska-Krawczyk, Rebecca R. Mastey, Stephen H. Tsang, Leon Chea, Kyle Kim, Scott R. Lambert, Julia M.D. Grandjean, Britta Baumann, Isabelle Audo, Susanne Kohl, Anthony T. Moore, R. Luke Wiseman, Joseph Carroll, Jonathan H. Lin