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Development. 2000 Aug;127(15):3237-47.

All Brn3 genes can promote retinal ganglion cell differentiation in the chick.

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  • 1Graduate Program in Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Piscataway, New Jersey 08854, USA.


Targeted gene disruption studies in the mouse have demonstrated crucial roles for the Brn3 POU domain transcription factor genes, Brn3a, Brn3b, Brn3c (now called Pou4f1, Pou4f2, Pou4f3, respectively) in sensorineural development and survival. During mouse retinogenesis, the Brn3b gene is expressed in a large set of postmitotic ganglion cell precursors and is required for their early and terminal differentiation. In contrast, the Brn3a and Brn3c genes, which are expressed later in ganglion cells, appear to be dispensable for ganglion cell development. To understand the mechanism that causes the functional differences of Brn3 genes in retinal development, we employed a gain-of-function approach in the chick embryo. We find that Brn3b(l) and Brn3b(s), the two isoforms encoded by the Brn3b gene, as well as Brn3a and Brn3c all have similar DNA-binding and transactivating activities. We further find that the POU domain is minimally required for these activities. Consequently, we show that all these Brn3 proteins have a similar ability to promote development of ganglion cells when ectopically expressed in retinal progenitors. During chick retinogenesis, cBrn3c instead of cBrn3b exhibits a spatial and temporal expression pattern characteristic of ganglion cell genesis and its misexpression can also increase ganglion cell production. Based on these data, we propose that all Brn3 factors are capable of promoting retinal ganglion cell development, and that this potential may be limited by the order of expression in vivo.

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