Autosomal recessive bestrophinopathy (ARB) is caused by mutations in the gene BEST1 which encodes bestrophin 1 (Best1), an anion channel expressed in retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells. It has been hypothesized that ARB represents the human null phenotype for BEST1 and that this occurs due to nonsense mediated decay (NMD). To test this hypothesis, we generated induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) from a patient with ARB and her parents. After differentiation to retinal pigment epithelial (iPSC-RPE) cells, both BEST1 mRNA and Best1 protein expression were compared to controls. BEST1 mRNA expression levels, determined by quantitative PCR, were similar in ARB iPSC-RPE, parental cells, and genetically unrelated controls. Western blotting revealed that CRALBP and RPE65 were expressed within the range delineated by unrelated controls in iPSC-RPE from the ARB donor and her parents. Best1 protein was detected in different clones of ARB iPSC-RPE, but at reduced levels compared to all controls. When tested for the ability to phagocytose photoreceptor outer segments, ARB iPSC-RPE exhibited impaired internalization. These data suggest that impaired phagocytosis is a trait common to the bestrophinopathies. Furthermore, ARB is not universally the result of NMD and ARB, in this patient, is not due to the absence of Best1.
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