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Importance: Mutations in genes traditionally associated with syndromic retinal disease are increasingly found to cause nonsyndromic inherited retinal degenerations. Mutations in CLN3 are classically associated with juvenile neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis, a rare neurodegenerative disease with early retinal degeneration and progressive neurologic deterioration, but have recently also been identified in patients with nonsyndromic inherited retinal degenerations. To our knowledge, detailed clinical characterization of such cases has yet to be reported. Objective: To provide detailed clinical, electrophysiologic, structural, and molecular genetic findings in nonsyndromic inherited retinal degenerations associated with CLN3 mutations. Design, Setting, and Participants: A multi-institutional case series of 10 patients who presented with isolated nonsyndromic retinal disease and mutations in CLN3. Patient ages ranged from 16 to 70 years; duration of follow-up ranged from 3 to 29 years. Main Outcomes and Measures: Longitudinal clinical evaluation, including full ophthalmic examination, multimodal retinal imaging, perimetry, and electrophysiology. Molecular analyses were performed using whole-genome sequencing or whole-exome sequencing. Electron microscopy studies of peripheral lymphocytes and CLN3 transcript analysis with polymerase chain reaction amplification were performed in a subset of patients. Results: There were 7 females and 3 males in this case series, with a mean (range) age at last review of 37.1 (16-70) years. Of the 10 patients, 4 had a progressive late-onset rod-cone dystrophy, with a mean (range) age at onset of 29.7 (20-40) years, and 6 had an earlier onset rod-cone dystrophy, with a mean (range) age at onset of 12.1 (7-17) years. Ophthalmoscopic examination features included macular edema, mild intraretinal pigment migration, and widespread atrophy in advanced disease. Optical coherence tomography imaging demonstrated significant photoreceptor loss except in patients with late-onset disease who had a focal preservation of the ellipsoid zone and outer nuclear layer in the fovea. Electroretinography revealed a rod-cone pattern of dysfunction in 6 patients and were completely undetectable in 2 patients. Six novel CLN3 variants were identified in molecular analyses. Conclusions and Relevance: This report describes detailed clinical, imaging, and genetic features of CLN3-associated nonsyndromic retinal degeneration. The age at onset and natural progression of retinal disease differs greatly between syndromic and nonsyndromic CLN3 disease, which may be associated with genotypic differences.

Original publication




Journal article


JAMA Ophthalmol

Publication Date





749 - 760


Adolescent, Adult, Aged, DNA, DNA Mutational Analysis, Electroretinography, Female, Humans, Male, Membrane Glycoproteins, Middle Aged, Molecular Chaperones, Mutation, Ophthalmoscopy, Pedigree, Phenotype, Retinal Degeneration, Tomography, Optical Coherence, Visual Acuity, Young Adult