The exocyst is required for photoreceptor ciliogenesis and retinal development

Glenn P. Lobo, Diana Fulmer, Lilong Guo, Xiaofeng Zuo, Yujing Dang, Seok Hyung Kim, Yanhui Su, Kola George, Elisabeth Obert, Ben Fogelgren, Deepak Nihalani, Russell A. Norris, Bärbel Rohrer, Joshua H. Lipschutz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


We previously have shown that the highly conserved eightprotein exocyst trafficking complex is required for ciliogenesis in kidney tubule cells. We hypothesized here that ciliogenic programs are conserved across organs and species. To determine whether renal primary ciliogenic programs are conserved in the eye, and to characterize the function and mechanisms by which the exocyst regulates eye development in zebrafish, we focused on exoc5, a central component of the exocyst complex, by analyzing both exoc5 zebrafish mutants, and photoreceptor specific Exoc5 knock-out mice. Two separate exoc5 mutant zebrafish lines phenocopied exoc5 morphants and, strikingly, exhibited a virtual absence of photoreceptors, along with abnormal retinal development and cell death. Because the zebrafish mutant was a global knockout, we also observed defects in several ciliated organs, including the brain (hydrocephalus), heart (cardiac edema), and kidney (disordered and shorter cilia). exoc5 knockout increased phosphorylation of the regulatory protein Mob1, consistent with Hippo pathway activation. exoc5 mutant zebrafish rescue with human EXOC5 mRNA completely reversed the mutant phenotype. We accomplished photoreceptor-specific knockout of Exoc5 with our Exoc5 fl/fl mouse line crossed with a rhodopsin-Cre driver line. In Exoc5 photoreceptor-specific knock-out mice, the photoreceptor outer segment structure was severely impaired at 4 weeks of age, although a full-field electroretinogram indicated a visual response was still present. However, by 6 weeks, visual responses were eliminated. In summary, we show that ciliogenesis programs are conserved in the kidneys and eyes of zebrafish and mice and that the exocyst is necessary for photoreceptor ciliogenesis and retinal development, most likely by trafficking cilia and outer-segment proteins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14814-14826
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number36
StatePublished - Sep 8 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported in part by grants from the Veterans Affairs (Merit Award I01 BX000820 (to J. H. L.) and National Institutes of Health Grants P30DK074038 (to J. H. L.), R21EY025034 (to G. P. L.), R01HL131546 (to R. A. N.), P20GM103444 (to R. A. N.), and R01HL127692 (to R. A. N.). The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest with the contents of this article. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments—The UAB P30 Hepatorenal Fibrocystic Disease Core Center (supported by National Institutes of Health Grant P30DK074038) is gratefully acknowledged for generating the second exoc5 zebrafish mutant line using CRISPR gene editing, as well as for previously generating the Exoc5fl/fl mouse line.


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