A challenge to the striking genotypic heterogeneity of retinitis pigmentosa: a better understanding of the pathophysiology using the newest genetic strategies.

Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is a group of inherited retinal disorders characterized by a complex association between tremendous genotypic multiplicity and great phenotypic heterogeneity. The severity of the clinical manifestation depends on penetrance and expressivity of the disease-gene. Also, various interactions between gene expression and environmental factors have been hypothesized. More than 250 genes with ~4500 causative mutations have been reported to be involved in different RP-related mechanisms. Nowadays, not more than the 50% of RPs are attributable to identified genes, whereas the rest of molecular defects are still undetectable, especially in populations where few genetic screenings have been performed. Therefore, new genetic strategies can be a remarkably useful tool to aid clinical diagnosis, potentially modifying treatment options, and family counseling. Genome-wide analytical techniques (array comparative genomic hybridization and single-nucleotide polymorphism genotyping) and DNA sequencing strategies (arrayed primer extension, Sanger sequencing, and ultra high-throughput sequencing) are successfully used to early make molecular diagnosis detecting single or multiple mutations in the huge heterogeneity of RPs. To date, further research needs to be carried out to better investigate the genotype/phenotype correlation, putting together genetic and clinical findings to provide detailed information concerning the risk of RP development and novel effective treatments.

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