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Dev Biol. 2005 Sep 1;285(1):138-55.

Mutations that affect the survival of selected amacrine cell subpopulations define a new class of genetic defects in the vertebrate retina.

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Department of Ophthalmology, Harvard Medical School/MEEI, 243 Charles Street, Boston, MA 02114, USA.


Amacrine neurons are among the most diverse cell classes in the vertebrate retina. To gain insight into mechanisms vital to the production and survival of amacrine cell types, we investigated a group of mutations in three zebrafish loci: kleks (kle), chiorny (chy), and bergmann (bgm). Mutants of all three genes display a severe loss of selected amacrine cell subpopulations. The numbers of GABA-expressing amacrine interneurons are sharply reduced in all three mutants, while cell loss in other amacrine cell subpopulations varies and some cells are not affected at all. To investigate how amacrine cell loss affects retinal function, we performed electroretinograms on mutant animals. While the kle mutation mostly influences the function of the inner nuclear layer, unexpectedly the chy mutant phenotype also involves a loss of photoreceptor cell activity. The precise ration and arrangement of amacrine cell subpopulations suggest that cell-cell interactions are involved in the differentiation of this cell class. To test whether defects of such interactions may be, at least in part, responsible for mutant phenotypes, we performed mosaic analysis and demonstrated that the loss of parvalbumin-positive amacrine cells in chy mutants is due to extrinsic (cell-nonautonomous) causes. The phenotype of another amacrine cell subpopulation, the GABA-positive cells, does not display a clear cell-nonautonomy in chy animals. These results indicate that environmental factors, possibly interactions among different subpopulations of amacrine neurons, are involved in the development of the amacrine cell class.

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