Cyclic nucleotide-gated (CNG) channels are important mediators in the transduction pathways of rod and cone photoreceptors. Native CNG channels are heterotetramers composed of homologous A and B subunits. Biallelic mutations in CNGA1 or CNGB1 genes result in autosomal recessive retinitis pigmentosa (RP). To investigate the pathogenic mechanism of CNG channel-associated retinal degeneration, we developed a mouse model of CNGA1 knock-out using CRISPR/Cas9 technology. We observed progressive retinal thinning and a concomitant functional deficit in vivo as typical phenotypes for RP. Immunofluorescence and TUNEL staining showed progressive degeneration in rods and cones. Moreover, microglial activation and oxidative stress damage occurred in parallel. RNA-sequencing analysis of the retinae suggested down-regulated synaptic transmission and phototransduction as early as 9 days postnatal, possibly inducing later photoreceptor degeneration. In addition, the down-regulated PI3K-AKT-mTOR pathway indicated upregulation of autophagic process, and chaperone-mediated autophagy was further shown to coincide with the time course of photoreceptor death. Taken together, our studies add to a growing body of research exploring the mechanisms of photoreceptor death during RP progression and provide a novel CNGA1 knockout mouse model for potential development of therapies.© 2021 Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.
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