PCARE and WASF3 regulate ciliary F-actin assembly that is required for the initiation of photoreceptor outer segment disk formation. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2020;117(18):9922-9931.Abstract.
The outer segments (OS) of rod and cone photoreceptor cells are specialized sensory cilia that contain hundreds of opsin-loaded stacked membrane disks that enable phototransduction. The biogenesis of these disks is initiated at the OS base, but the driving force has been debated. Here, we studied the function of the protein encoded by the photoreceptor-specific gene , which is mutated in inherited retinal dystrophy (RP54). We demonstrate that C2orf71/PCARE (photoreceptor cilium actin regulator) can interact with the Arp2/3 complex activator WASF3, and efficiently recruits it to the primary cilium. Ectopic coexpression of PCARE and WASF3 in ciliated cells results in the remarkable expansion of the ciliary tip. This process was disrupted by small interfering RNA (siRNA)-based down-regulation of an actin regulator, by pharmacological inhibition of actin polymerization, and by the expression of PCARE harboring a retinal dystrophy-associated missense mutation. Using human retinal organoids and mouse retina, we observed that a similar actin dynamics-driven process is operational at the base of the photoreceptor OS where the PCARE module and actin colocalize, but which is abrogated in mice. The observation that several proteins involved in retinal ciliopathies are translocated to these expansions renders it a potential common denominator in the pathomechanisms of these hereditary disorders. Together, our work suggests that PCARE is an actin-associated protein that interacts with WASF3 to regulate the actin-driven expansion of the ciliary membrane at the initiation of new outer segment disk formation.