The retinitis pigmentosa 28 protein FAM161A is a novel ciliary protein involved in intermolecular protein interaction and microtubule association

Frank Zach, Felix Grassmann, Thomas Langmann, Nasrin Sorusch, Uwe Wolfrum, Heidi Stöhr*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Loss-of-function mutations in the gene encoding FAM161A were recently discovered as the cause for RP28, an autosomal recessive form of retinitis pigmentosa. To initiate the characterization of the cellular role of FAM161A in the retina, we focused on its subcellular localization and conducted in vitro studies to identify FAM161A-interacting proteins and associated cellular structures. Immunohistochemistry revealed the presence of mouse FAM161A in the photoreceptor inner segments, the synaptic regions of the outer and inner plexiform layers and the ganglion cells. In mouse and human retinal sections from unfixed eyes, FAM161A localized to the ciliary region linking photoreceptor outer and inner segments. High-resolution immunofluorescence and immunoelectron microscopy mapped FAM161A to the connecting cilium, the basal body region and the adjacent centriole. Ectopic FAM161A was found in the centrosome and concentrated at the base of primary cilia in cultured cells. In addition, overexpressed FAM161A was clearly associated with microtubules during interphase and mitosis. The presence of FAM161A increased microtubule acetylation and stabilization. We further show that the evolutionarily conserved UPF0564 domain of FAM161A is crucial for its binding to microtubules and mediates homo- and heterotypic FAM161A and FAM161B interaction. In conclusion, our study shows that FAM161A is a microtubule-associated ciliary protein presumably involved in microtubule stabilization to maintain the microtubule tracks and/or in transport processes along microtubules in photoreceptors and other retinal cell types.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberdds268
Pages (from-to)4573-4586
Number of pages14
JournalHuman Molecular Genetics
Issue number21
Early online date12 Jul 2012
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2012

Bibliographical note

The authors thank Kerstin Ruckl, Elisabeth Sehn, Christian Umkehrer and Gabi Stern-Schneider for excellent technical assistance and Marcus Karlstetter for helpful discussions and the construction of expression vectors.
Conflict of Interest statement. None declared.
This work was supported by grants from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, STO366/4-1, LA1203/8-1, GRK 1044), Forschung contra Blindheit - Initative Usher Syndrom, ProRetina Deutschland, the FAUN-Stiftung, Nurnberg and the
European Community FP7/2009/241955 (SYSCILIA).


  • flourescent antibody technique
  • microscopy
  • immunoelectron
  • microtubules
  • photreceptors
  • retinitis pigmentosa
  • antibodies
  • cilia
  • mice
  • retina


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