Biallelic Variants in TULP1 Are Associated with Heterogeneous Phenotypes of Retinal Dystrophy

January 31, 2023

Jan-Philipp Bodenbender 1Valerio Marino 2Leon Bethge 1Katarina Stingl 1Tobias B Haack 3 4Saskia Biskup 5 6Susanne Kohl 7Laura Kühlewein 1Daniele Dell’Orco 2Nicole Weisschuh 7


Biallelic pathogenic variants in TULP1 are mostly associated with severe rod-driven inherited retinal degeneration. In this study, we analyzed clinical heterogeneity in 17 patients and characterized the underlying biallelic variants in TULP1. All patients underwent thorough ophthalmological examinations. Minigene assays and structural analyses were performed to assess the consequences of splice variants and missense variants. Three patients were diagnosed with Leber congenital amaurosis, nine with early onset retinitis pigmentosa, two with retinitis pigmentosa with an onset in adulthood, one with cone dystrophy, and two with cone-rod dystrophy. Seventeen different alleles were identified, namely eight missense variants, six nonsense variants, one in-frame deletion variant, and two splice site variants. For the latter two, minigene assays revealed aberrant transcripts containing frameshifts and premature termination codons. Structural analysis and molecular modeling suggested different degrees of structural destabilization for the missense variants. In conclusion, we report the largest cohort of patients with TULP1-associated IRD published to date. Most of the patients exhibited rod-driven disease, yet a fraction of the patients exhibited cone-driven disease. Our data support the hypothesis that TULP1 variants do not fold properly and thus trigger unfolded protein response, resulting in photoreceptor death.

Keywords: Leber congenital amaurosis; TULP1; Tubby domain; cone dystrophy; cone-rod dystrophy; inherited retinal degeneration; minigene assay; retinitis pigmentosa; structural analysis; unfolded protein response