Inherited retinal diseases (IRDs) are a diverse group of genetically and clinically heterogeneous retinal abnormalities. The present study was designed to identify genetic defects in individuals with an uncommon combination of autosomal recessive progressive cone-rod degeneration accompanied by sensorineural hearing loss (arCRD-SNHL). Homozygosity mapping followed by whole-exome sequencing (WES) and founder mutation screening revealed two truncating rare variants (c.893-1G>A and c.534delT) in CEP78, which encodes centrosomal protein 78, in six individuals of Jewish ancestry with CRD and SNHL. RT-PCR analysis of CEP78 in blood leukocytes of affected individuals revealed that the c.893-1G>A mutation causes exon 7 skipping leading to deletion of 65bp, predicted to result in a frameshift and therefore a truncated protein (p.Asp298Valfs∗17). RT-PCR analysis of 17 human tissues demonstrated ubiquitous expression of different CEP78 transcripts. RNA-seq analysis revealed three transcripts in the human retina and relatively higher expression in S-cone-like photoreceptors of Nrl-knockout retina compared to rods. Immunohistochemistry studies in the human retina showed intense labeling of cone inner segments compared to rods. CEP78 was reported previously to interact with c-nap1, encoded by CEP250 that we reported earlier to cause atypical Usher syndrome. We conclude that truncating mutations in CEP78 result in a phenotype involving both the visual and auditory systems but different from typical Usher syndrome.
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