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Mol Vis. 2004 Jan 8;10:1-14.

Differential distribution of fibroblast growth factor receptors (FGFRs) on foveal cones: FGFR-4 is an early marker of cone photoreceptors.

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  • 1Save Sight Institute, University of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.



Relatively little is known of the expression and distribution of FGF receptors (FGFR) in the primate retina. We investigated expression of FGFRs in developing and adult Macaca monkey retina, paying particular attention to the cone rich, macular region.


One fetal human retina was used for diagnostic PCR using primers designed for FGFR1, FGFR2, FGFR3, FGFR4, and FGFR like-protein 1 (FGFrl1) and for probe design to FGFR3, FGFR4, and FGFrl1. Rat cDNA was used to synthesize probes for FGFR1 and FGFR2 with 90% and 93% homology to human, respectively. Paraffin sections of retina from macaque fetuses sacrificed at fetal days (Fd) 64, 73, 85, 105, 115, 120, and 165, and postnatal ages 2.5 and 11 years were used to detect FGF receptors by immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization.


PCR showed each of the FGF receptors are expressed in fetal human retina. In situ hybridization indicated that mRNA for each receptor is expressed in all retinal cell layers during development, but most intensely in the ganglion cell layer (GCL). FGFR2 mRNA is reduced in the adult inner (INL) and outer (ONL) nuclear layers, while FGFrl1 mRNA is virtually absent from the adult ONL. FGFR4 mRNA is particularly intense in fetal and adult cone photoreceptors. Immunoreactivity to FGFR1-FGFR4 was detected in the interphotoreceptor matrix in what appeared to be RPE microvilli associated with developing photoreceptor outer segments, and generally is high in the GCL and low in the INL. Different patterns of FGFR3 and FGFR4 immunoreactivities in the outer plexiform layer (OPL) suggest localization of FGFR3 to horizontal cell processes, with FGFR4 being expressed by both horizontal and bipolar cell processes. FGFR1, FGFR3, and FGFR4 immunoreactivities are present in the inner segments and somata of adult cones. The pedicles of developing and adult cones are FGFR1 and FGFR3 immunoreactive, and the basal, synaptic region is FGFR4 immunoreactive. FGFR4 labels cones almost in their entirety from early in development and is not detected in rods. The fibers of Henle are intensely FGFR4 immunoreactive in adult cones.


The results show high levels of FGF receptor expression in developing and adult retina. Differential distribution of FGF receptors across developing and adult photoreceptors suggests specific roles for FGF signalling in development and maintenance of photoreceptors, particularly the specialized cones of the fovea.

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