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PLoS One. 2012;7(11):e49830. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0049830. Epub 2012 Nov 16.

Whole number, distribution and co-expression of brn3 transcription factors in retinal ganglion cells of adult albino and pigmented rats.

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Unidad de Investigación, Hospital Universitario Virgen de la Arrixaca. Fundación para la Formación e Investigación Sanitarias de la Región de Murcia, IMIB, El Palmar, Murcia, Spain.


The three members of the Pou4f family of transcription factors: Pou4f1, Pou4f2, Pou4f3 (Brn3a, Brn3b and Brn3c, respectively) play, during development, essential roles in the differentiation and survival of sensory neurons. The purpose of this work is to study the expression of the three Brn3 factors in the albino and pigmented adult rat. Animals were divided into these groups: i) untouched; ii) fluorogold (FG) tracing from both superior colliculli; iii) FG-tracing from one superior colliculus; iv) intraorbital optic nerve transection or crush. All retinas were dissected as flat-mounts and subjected to single, double or triple immunohistofluorescence The total number of FG-traced, Brn3a, Brn3b, Brn3c or Brn3 expressing RGCs was automatically quantified and their spatial distribution assessed using specific routines. Brn3 factors were studied in the general RGC population, and in the intrinsically photosensitive (ip-RGCs) and ipsilateral RGC sub-populations. Our results show that: i) 70% of RGCs co- express two or three Brn3s and the remaining 30% express only Brn3a (26%) or Brn3b; ii) the most abundant Brn3 member is Brn3a followed by Brn3b and finally Brn3c; iii) Brn3 a-, b- or c- expressing RGCs are similarly distributed in the retina; iv) The vast majority of ip-RGCs do not express Brn3; v) The main difference between both rat strains was found in the population of ipsilateral-RGCs, which accounts for 4.2% and 2.5% of the total RGC population in the pigmented and albino strain, respectively. However, more ipsilateral-RGCs express Brn3 factors in the albino than in the pigmented rat; vi) RGCs that express only Brn3b and RGCs that co-express the three Brn3 members have the biggest nuclei; vii) After axonal injury the level of Brn3a expression in the surviving RGCs decreases compared to control retinas. Finally, this work strengthens the validity of Brn3a as a marker to identify and quantify rat RGCs.

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