Genetic interplay between transcription factor Pou4f1/Brn3a and neurotrophin receptor Ret in retinal ganglion cell type specification

Vladimir Vladimirovich Muzyka, Tudor Constantin Badea

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Background: While the transcriptional code governing retinal ganglion cell (RGC) type specification begins to be understood, its interplay with neurotrophic signaling is largely unexplored. In mice, the transcription factor Brn3a/Pou4f1 is expressed in most RGCs, and is required for the specification of RGCs with small dendritic arbors. The Glial Derived Neurotrophic Factor (GDNF) receptor Ret is expressed in a subset of RGCs, including some expressing Brn3a, but its role in RGC development is not defined. Methods: Here we use combinatorial genetic experiments using conditional knock-in reporter alleles at the Brn3a and Ret loci, in combination with retina- or Ret specific Cre drivers, to generate complete or mosaic genetic ablations of either Brn3a or Ret in RGCs. We then use sparse labelling to investigate Brn3a and Ret gene dosage effects on RGC dendritic arbor morphology. In addition, we use immunostaining and/or gene expression profiling by RNASeq to identify transcriptional targets relevant for the potential Brn3a-Ret interaction in RGC development. Results: We find that mosaic gene dosage manipulation of the transcription factor Brn3a/Pou4f1 in neurotrophic receptor Ret heterozygote RGCs results in altered cell fate decisions and/or morphological dendritic defects. Specific RGC types are lost if Brn3a is ablated during embryogenesis and only mildly affected by postnatal Brn3a ablation. Sparse but not complete Brn3a heterozygosity combined with complete Ret heterozygosity has striking effects on RGC type distribution. Brn3a only mildly modulates Ret transcription, while Ret knockouts exhibit slightly skewed Brn3a and Brn3b expression during development that is corrected by adult age. Brn3a loss of function modestly but significantly affects distribution of Ret co-receptors GFRα1-3, and neurotrophin receptors TrkA and TrkC in RGCs. Conclusions: Based on these observations, we propose that Brn3a and Ret converge onto developmental pathways that control RGC type specification, potentially through a competitive mechanism requiring signaling from the surrounding tissue.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number5
    JournalNeural Development
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


    • Cell type specification
    • Neurotrophic Signal
    • Pou4f1
    • Ret
    • Retinal Ganglion Cell
    • Transcription




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