Roles of cell-intrinsic and microenvironmental factors in photoreceptor cell differentiation

Rebecca L. Bradford, Chenwei Wang, Donald J. Zack, Ruben Adler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Photoreceptor differentiation requires the coordinated expression of numerous genes. It is unknown whether those genes share common regulatory mechanisms or are independently regulated by distinct mechanisms. To distinguish between these scenarios, we have used in situ hybridization, RT-PCR, and real-time PCR to analyze the expression of visual pigments and other photoreceptor-specific genes during chick embryo retinal development in ovo, as well as in retinal cell cultures treated with molecules that regulate the expression of particular visual pigments. In ovo, onset of gene expression was asynchronous, becoming detectable at the time of photoreceptor generation (ED 5-8) for some photoreceptor genes, but only around the time of outer segment formation (ED 14-16) for others. Treatment of retinal cell cultures with activin, staurosporine, or CNTF selectively induced or down-regulated specific visual pigment genes, but many cognate rod- or cone-specific genes were not affected by the treatments. These results indicate that many photoreceptor genes are independently regulated during development, are consistent with the existence of at least two distinct stages of gene expression during photoreceptor differentiation, suggest that intrinsic, coordinated regulation of a cascade of gene expression triggered by a commitment to the photoreceptor fate is not a general mechanism of photoreceptor differentiation, and imply that using a single photoreceptor-specific "marker" as a proxy to identify photoreceptor cell fate is problematic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-45
Number of pages15
JournalDevelopmental biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 1 2005


  • Cell culture
  • Chick embryo
  • Differentiation
  • Growth factors
  • Photoreceptor
  • Visual pigments

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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