James A. Poulter, Musallam Al-Araimi, Ivan Conte, Maria M. van Genderen, Eamonn Sheridan, Ian M. Carr, David A. Parry, Mike Shires, Sabrina Carrella, John Bradbury, Kamron Khan, Phillis Lakeman, Panagiotis I. Sergouniotis, Andrew R. Webster, Anthony T. Moore, Bishwanath Pal, Moin D. Mohamed, Anandula Venkataramana, Vedam Ramprasad, Rohit Shetty, Murugan Saktivel, Govindasamy Kumaramanickavel, Alex Tan, David A. Mackey, Alex W. Hewitt, Sandro Banfi, Manir Ali, Chris F. Inglehearn, and Carmel Toomes (2013). The American Journal of Human Genetics, 93, 1143–1150.
Foveal hypoplasia and optic nerve misrouting are developmental defects of the visual pathway and only co-occur in connection with albinism; to date, they have only been associated with defects in the melanin-biosynthesis pathway. Here, we report that these defects can occur independently of albinism in people with recessive mutations in the putative glutamine transporter gene SLC38A8. Nine different mutations were identified in seven Asian and European families. Using morpholino-mediated ablation of Slc38a8 in medaka fish, we confirmed that pigmentation is unaffected by loss of SLC38A8. Furthermore, by undertaking an association study with SNPs at the SLC38A8 locus, we showed that common variants within this gene modestly affect foveal thickness in the general population. This study reveals a melanin-independent component underpinning the development of the visual pathway that requires a functional role for SLC38A8.