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Mol Cell Neurosci. 2000 Jan;15(1):11-21.

Activin A promotes progenitor differentiation into photoreceptors in rodent retina.

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Department of Biological Structure, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington, 98195, USA.


Activins are TGF beta-like proteins that were first discovered for their actions on the reproductive system, but have subsequently been shown to play a role in a variety of developmental processes. Previous studies have demonstrated that activins and their receptors are present in the developing retina, as well as other regions of the embryonic nervous system. We used both in vitro and in vivo approaches to test for functions of activin during retinal development. We found that activin A treatment of embryonic day 18 rat retinal cultures causes the progenitor cells in the cultures to exit the cell cycle and differentiate into rod photoreceptors. This effect is dose-dependent and the promotion of rod photoreceptor differentiation is specific, since the other primary retinal neurons generated in these cultures, the C1+ amacrine cells, are not affected by activin A treatment. Mice with homozygous deletion of the activin betaA gene show a specific decrease in the number of rod photoreceptors compared to wild-type or heterozygous littermates. These data demonstrate that activin A is an important regulator of photoreceptor differentiation in the developing retina.

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