Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Ching-Kang Chen


The R7 regulators of G protein signaling (R7 RGS), namely RGS6, RGS7, RGS9 and RGS11, are expressed in the retina along with its binding partner Gβ5. The RGS9-1 isoform is expressed only in retinal photoreceptors and rate-limits the recovery of rod phototransduction by acting as a member of the transducin GAP complex (RGS9-1/Gβ5L/R9AP). The Gβ5L isoform is also only expressed in retinal photoreceptors and acts by stabilizing the GAP complex. The Gβ5S isoform differs from Gβ5L by the absence of exon 1 due to alternative splicing and is expressed in many other retinal cells. Gβ5L is barely detectable in RGS9-/- mice suggesting that Gβ5L has a protein degradation signal conferring instability in the absence of RGS9. To study the role of exon 1 of Gβ5L, we replaced Gβ5L with Gβ5S in rods by expressing transgenic Gβ5S under the control of the rhodopsin promoter within a Gβ5-/- mouse and determined that exon 1 of Gβ5L has two previously unidentified functions: (1) to increase the capacity of Gβ5L to bind to RGS9-1 and (2) to serve as a signal for rapid degradation of Gβ5L in RGS9-/- photoreceptors. Several groups have reported that RGS7 and RGS11 with Gβ5S reside in the dendritic tips of depolarizing bipolar cells (DBCs) and that they are involved in the mGluR6/Gαo/TRPM1 pathway, which mediates DBC light responses. The exact role of RGS7 in DBCs has not been unequivocally determined. We have contributed by making a true RGS7 null mouse line and found the RGS7-/- mice are viable and fertile, but have a small body size. Electroretinogram (ERG) b-wave implicit time in young RGS7-/- mice is prolonged at eye opening, but the phenotype disappears by 2 months of age. Expression levels of RGS6 and RGS11 are unchanged in RGS7-/- retina, but the Gβ5S level is significantly reduced. We further generated a RGS7 and RGS11 double knockout (711dKO) mouse line and found that Gβ5S expression in the retinal outer plexiform layer is eliminated, as well as the ERG b-wave. Ultrastructural defects similar to those of Gβ5-/- mice are present in 711dKO. Furthermore, in retinas of mice lacking RGS6, RGS7, and RGS11, Gβ5S becomes undetectable, while the photoreceptor-specific Gβ5L remains unaffected. Whereas RGS6 alone sustains a significant amount of Gβ5S expression in the retina, the DBC-related defects found in Gβ5-/- mice appear to be caused solely by a combined loss of RGS7 and RGS11. The notion that the role of Gβ5 in the retina, and likely in the entire nervous system, is mediated exclusively by R7 RGS proteins is firmly established in this work. The availability of all four R7 RGS single knockout mouse lines enables future studies to further elucidate the roles of R7 RGS proteins in vision.


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