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Dev Biol. 2001 Aug 15;236(2):436-53.

The perplexed and confused mutations affect distinct stages during the transition from proliferating to post-mitotic cells within the zebrafish retina.

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  • 1Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA.


To identify and study genes essential for vertebrate retinal development, we are screening zebrafish embryos for mutations that disrupt retinal histogenesis. Key steps in retinogenesis include withdrawal from mitosis by multipotent neuroepithelial cells, specification to particular cell types, migration to the appropriate laminar positions, and molecular and morphological differentiation. In this study, we have identified two recessive mutations that affect the transition of proliferating neuroepithelial cells to postmitotic retinal cells. Both the perplexed and confused mutant phenotypes were initially detectable when the first retinal neuroepithelial cells began to leave the cell cycle. At this time, each mutant retina showed increased cell death and a lack of morphological differentiation. Cell death was found to be apoptotic in both perplexed and confused retinas based on TUNEL analysis and activation of caspase-3. TUNEL-phosphoRb-BrdU colocalization studies indicated that the perplexed mutation caused death in cells transitioning from a proliferative to postmitotic state. For the confused mutation, TUNEL-phosphoRb-BrdU analysis revealed that only a subset of postmitotic cells were induced to activate apoptosis. Mosaic analysis demonstrated that within the retina the perplexed mutation functions noncell-autonomously. Furthermore, whole lens or eye cup transplantations indicated that the retinal defect was intrinsic to the retina. Mosaic analysis with confused embryos showed this mutation acts cell-autonomously. From these studies, we conclude that the perplexed and confused genes are essential at distinct stages during the transition from proliferating to postmitotic cells within the zebrafish retina.

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