In the retina of warm-blooded vertebrates, photoreceptors are specified many days before the onset of synaptogenesis and the expression of photopigments. The factors that regulate the maturation of photoreceptors in the developing retina remain unknown. We report here that photoreceptors transiently express LIM-domain transcription factors during the development of the chicken retina. We examined the differentiation of photoreceptors through the normal course of embryonic development and at the far periphery of the postnatal retina, where the differentiation of photoreceptors is slowed and persists across a spatial gradient. In the embryonic retina, we find visinin-positive photoreceptors that transiently express Islet2 and Lim3 starting at E8 and ending around E15, but persisting in far peripheral regions of the retina through the first 2 weeks of postnatal development. During early stages of photoreceptor maturation, there is coincident and transient expression of the LIM-domain factors with axonin1, a cell surface glycoprotein that is a member of the immunoglobulin superfamily. Coincident with the downregulation of Islet2 and Lim3, we find the upregulation of calbindin, red/green opsin, rhodopsin, and a synaptic marker in the outer plexiform layer (OPL; dystrophin). In the periphery of the postnatal retina, photoreceptors that express Islet2, Lim3, and axonin1 do not overlap with photoreceptors that express calbindin, red/green opsin, rhodopsin, and dystrophin. We propose that Islet2 and Lim3 may promote the expression of genes that are involved in the early stages of differentiation but may suppress the expression of genes that are required in the mature photoreceptors.
(c) 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.