PublicationsThe retinal pigmentation pathway in human albinism
Albinism is a pigment disorder affecting eye, skin and/or hair. Patients usually have decreased melanin in affected tissues and suffer from severe visual abnormalities, including foveal hypoplasia and chiasmal misrouting. Combining our data with those of the literature, we propose a single functional genetic retinal signalling pathway that includes all 22 currently known human albinism disease genes. We hypothesise that defects affecting the genesis or function of different intra-cellular organelles, including melanosomes, cause syndromic forms of albinism (Hermansky-Pudlak (HPS) and Chediak-Higashi syndrome (CHS)). We put forward that specific melanosome impairments cause different forms of oculocutaneous albinism (OCA1-8). Further, we incorporate GPR143 that has been implicated in ocular albinism (OA1), characterised by a phenotype limited to the eye. Finally, we include the SLC38A8-associated disorder FHONDA that causes an even more restricted “albinism-related” ocular phenotype with foveal hypoplasia and chiasmal misrouting but without pigmentation defects. We propose the following retinal pigmentation pathway, with increasingly specific genetic and cellular defects causing an increasingly specific ocular phenotype: (HPS1-11/CHS: syndromic forms of albinism)-(OCA1-8: OCA)-(GPR143: OA1)-(SLC38A8: FHONDA). Beyond disease genes involvement, we also evaluate a range of (candidate) regulatory and signalling mechanisms affecting the activity of the pathway in retinal development, retinal pigmentation and albinism. We further suggest that the proposed pigmentation pathway is also involved in other retinal disorders, such as age-related macular degeneration. The hypotheses put forward in this report provide a framework for further systematic studies in albinism and melanin pigmentation disorders.