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J Neurosci. 1995 Jul;15(7 Pt 1):4762-85.

The Brn-3 family of POU-domain factors: primary structure, binding specificity, and expression in subsets of retinal ganglion cells and somatosensory neurons.

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Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, USA.


A search for POU domain sequences expressed in the human retina has led to the identification of three closely related genes: Brn-3a, Brn-3b, and Brn-3c. The structure and expression pattern of Brn-3b was reported earlier (Xiang et al., 1993); we report here the structures and expression patterns of Brn-3a and Brn-3c. Antibodies specific for each Brn-3 protein were generated and shown to label only ganglion cells in a variety of vertebrate retinas. A complex pattern of strongly and weakly immunolabeled ganglion cells was observed in mouse, cat, and monkey retinae. In mouse and cat retinae, Brn-3a and Brn-3b proteins are found in a large fraction of ganglion cells, whereas Brn-3c is present in fewer ganglion cells. In the cat retina, anti-Brn-3a immunoreactivity was strong in the small ganglion cells (gamma cells) and weak in the remaining ganglion cells (alpha and beta cells); anti-Brn-3b immunoreactivity was present in all ganglion cells; and anti-Brn3c immunoreactivity was confined to the small ganglion cells. Immunolabeling of macaque retinae following retrograde labeling from the lateral geniculate nucleus revealed strong anti-Brn-3a immunoreactivity in a minority of retrogradely labeled P-type ganglion cells, and weak Brn-3a immunoreactivity in all of the remaining P- and M-type ganglion cells. In the same retinae, strong anti-Brn-3b immunoreactivity was seen in nearly all P-type ganglion cells and weak immunoreactivity in nearly all M-type ganglion cells. Each of the Brn-3-specific antibodies also labeled subsets of neurons in the dorsal root and trigeminal ganglia, suggesting that primary somatosensory neurons and retinal ganglion cells share genetic regulatory hierarchies. In vitro selection of an optimal DNA binding site using the Brn-3b POU domain has revealed a consensus [(A/G)CTCATTAA(T/C)] that is recognized by each of the Brn-3 POU domains and is distinct from binding sites previously described for other POU domain proteins.

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