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Tubby is required for trafficking G protein-coupled receptors to neuronal cilia

Xun Sun1, James Haley1, Oleg V Bulgakov1, Xue Cai2, James McGinnis2 and Tiansen Li1*

Author Affiliations

1 Neurobiology Neurodegeneration and Repair Laboratory (N-NRL), National Eye Institute, MSC0610, 6 Center Drive, Bethesda, MD, 20892, USA

2 Department of Ophthalmology, Dean A. McGee Eye Institute, Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, 73104, USA

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Cilia 2012, 1:21  doi:10.1186/2046-2530-1-21

Please see related Commentary article by Mukhopadhyay and Jackson

Published: 1 November 2012



Tubby is the founding member of the tubby-like family of proteins. The naturally occurring tubby mutation in mice causes retinitis pigmentosa, hearing loss and obesity. Tubby has been proposed to function as an accessory factor in ciliary trafficking. We directly examined a role for tubby in ciliary trafficking in vivo.


We used immunofluoresence labeling to examine the subcellular localization of rhodopsin, somatostatin receptor 3 (SSTR3) and melanin concentrating hormone receptor 1 (MCHR1), all of which are G protein-coupled receptors (GPCR), in the retina and brain of wild type (WT) and tubby mutant mice.


In tubby mouse retina, rhodopsin is not fully transported across the connecting cilia to the outer segments with ensuing photoreceptor degeneration. In the tubby mouse brain, SSTR3 and MCHR1 fail to localize at the neuronal primary cilia in regions where these receptors play critical roles in neural signaling. The tubby mutant does not manifest a generalized defect in ciliogenesis or protein trafficking.


Tubby plays a critical role in trafficking select GPCRs to the cilia. This role is reminiscent of tubby-like proteins 1 and 3, which have been proposed to facilitate trafficking of rhodopsin and select GPCRs in photoreceptors and the developing neural tube, respectively. Thus tubby-like proteins may be generally involved in transciliary trafficking of GPCRs.

Cilia; Neuronal cilia; Connecting cilia