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We identified mice with late-onset retinal degeneration in a screen of ageing mice carrying an ENU-induced mutation, E229K, in Idh3a. Mice homozygous for this mutation exhibit signs of retinal stress, indicated by GFAP staining, as early as 3 months, but no other tissues appear to be affected. We produced a knockout of Idh3a and found that homozygous mice do not survive past early embryogenesis. Idh3a−/E229K compound heterozygous mutants exhibit a more severe retinal degeneration when compared to Idh3aE229K/E229K. Analysis of mitochondrial function in mutant cell lines highlighted a reduction in mitochondrial maximal respiration and reserve capacity levels in both Idh3aE229K/E229K and Idh3a−/E229K cells. Loss-of function Idh3b mutants do not exhibit the same retinal degeneration phenotype, with no signs of retinal stress or reduction in mitochondrial respiration.
It has been previously reported that the retina operates with a limited mitochondrial reserve capacity and we suggest that this, in combination with the reduced reserve capacity in mutants, explains the degenerative phenotype observed in Idh3a mutant mice.
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