Regulation of Brn3b by DLX1 and DLX2 is required for retinal ganglion cell differentiation in the vertebrate retina

Qi Zhang, Jamie Zagozewski, Shaohong Cheng, Rajiv Dixit, Shunzhen Zhang, Jimmy de Melo, Xiuqian Mu, William H. Klein, Nadean L. Brown, Jeffrey T. Wigle, Carol Schuurmans, David D. Eisenstat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Regulated retinal ganglion cell (RGC) differentiation and axonal guidance is required for a functional visual system. Homeodomain and basic helix-loop-helix transcription factors are required for retinogenesis, as well as patterning, differentiation and maintenance of specific retinal cell types. We hypothesized that Dlx1, Dlx2 and Brn3b homeobox genes function in parallel intrinsic pathways to determine RGC fate and therefore generated Dlx1/ Dlx2/Brn3b triple-knockout mice. A more severe retinal phenotype was found in the Dlx1/Dlx2/Brn3b-null retinas than was predicted by combining features of the Brn3b single- and Dlx1/Dlx2 doubleknockout retinas, including near total RGC loss with a marked increase in amacrine cells in the ganglion cell layer. Furthermore, we discovered that DLX1 and DLX2 function as direct transcriptional activators of Brn3b expression. Knockdown of Dlx2 expression in primary embryonic retinal cultures and Dlx2 gain of function in utero strongly support that DLX2 is both necessary and sufficient for Brn3b expression in vivo. We suggest that ATOH7 specifies RGC-committed progenitors and that Dlx1 and Dlx2 function both downstream of ATOH7 and in parallel, but cooperative, pathways that involve regulation of Brn3b expression to determine RGC fate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1698-1711
Number of pages14
JournalDevelopment (Cambridge)
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2017


  • Atoh7
  • Chromatin immunoprecipitation
  • Homeobox
  • In utero electroporation
  • Math5
  • Mouse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology


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