A gene network downstream of transcription factor Math5 regulates retinal progenitor cell competence and ganglion cell fate

Dev Biol. 2005 Apr 15;280(2):467-81. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2005.01.028.


Math5, a mouse homolog of the Drosophila proneural bHLH transcription factor Atonal, is essential in the developing retina to establish retinal progenitor cell competence for a ganglion cell fate. Elucidating the mechanisms by which Math5 influences progenitor cell competence is crucial for understanding how specification of neuronal cell fate occurs in the retina and it requires knowledge of the downstream target genes that depend on Math5 for their expression. To date, only a handful of genes downstream of Math5 have been identified. To better define the gene network operating downstream of Math5, we used custom-designed microarrays to examine the changes in embryonic retinal gene expression caused by deletion of math5. We identified 270 Math5-dependent genes, including those that were expressed specifically either in progenitor cells or differentiated ganglion cells. The ganglion cell-specific genes included both Brn3b-dependent and Brn3b-independent genes, indicating that Math5 regulates distinct branches of the gene network responsible for retinal ganglion cell differentiation. In math5-null progenitor cells, there was an up-regulation of the proneural genes math3, neuroD, and ngn2, indicating that Math5 suppresses the production of other cell types in addition to promoting retinal ganglion cell formation. The promoter regions of many Math5-dependent genes contained binding sites for REST/NRSF, suggesting that release from general repression in retinal progenitor cells is required for ganglion cell-specific gene activation. The identification of multiple roles for Math5 provides new insights into the gene network that defines progenitor cell competence in the embryonic retina.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • Binding Sites
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Lineage
  • DNA, Complementary / metabolism
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / chemistry
  • Down-Regulation
  • Embryo, Mammalian / metabolism
  • Ganglia / metabolism
  • Gene Deletion
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Multigene Family
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • RNA / metabolism
  • Retina / cytology*
  • Retina / embryology
  • Retina / metabolism
  • Stem Cells / cytology
  • Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / chemistry
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Transcriptional Activation
  • Up-Regulation


  • Atoh7 protein, mouse
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • DNA, Complementary
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • RNA