Contribution of growth differentiation factor 6-dependent cell survival to early-onset retinal dystrophies

Mika Asai-coakwell, Lindsey March, Xiao Hua Dai, Michele Duval, Irma Lopez, Curtis R. French, Jakub Famulski, Elfride De baere, Peter J. Francis, Periasamy Sundaresan, Yves Sauvé, Robert K. Koenekoop, Fred B. Berry, W. Ted Allison, Andrew J. Waskiewicz, Ordan J. Lehmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Retinal dystrophies are predominantly caused by mutations affecting the visual phototransduction system and cilia, with few genes identified that function to maintain photoreceptor survival. We reasoned that growth factors involved with early embryonic retinal development would represent excellent candidates for such diseases. Here we show that mutations in the transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) ligand Growth Differentiation Factor 6, which specifies the dorso-ventral retinal axis, contribute to Leber congenital amaurosis. Furthermore, deficiency of gdf6 results in photoreceptor degeneration, so demonstrating a connection between Gdf6 signaling and photoreceptor survival. In addition, in both murine and zebrafish mutant models, we observe retinal apoptosis, a characteristic feature of human retinal dystrophies. Treatment of gdf6-deficient zebrafish embryos with a novel aminopropyl carbazole, P7C3, rescued the retinal apoptosis without evidence of toxicity. These findings implicate for the first time perturbed TGF-β signaling in the genesis of retinal dystrophies, support the study of related morphogenetic genes for comparable roles in retinal disease and may offer additional therapeutic opportunities for genetically heterogeneous disorders presently only treatable with gene therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberdds560
Pages (from-to)1432-1442
Number of pages11
JournalHuman Molecular Genetics
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by grants from Foundation Fighting Blindness Canada (A.J.W. and O.J.L.), Canadian Institutes of Health Research (O.J.L.), National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (W.T.A.), Funds for Scientific Research (E.D.B.), as well as the Canada Research Chair Program (A.J.W. and O.J.L.).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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