Early B-cell factors are required for specifying multiple retinal cell types and subtypes from postmitotic precursors

J Neurosci. 2010 Sep 8;30(36):11902-16. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2187-10.2010.


The establishment of functional retinal circuits in the mammalian retina depends critically on the proper generation and assembly of six classes of neurons, five of which consist of two or more subtypes that differ in morphologies, physiological properties, and/or sublaminar positions. How these diverse neuronal types and subtypes arise during retinogenesis still remains largely to be defined at the molecular level. Here we show that all four family members of the early B-cell factor (Ebf) helix-loop-helix transcription factors are similarly expressed during mouse retinogenesis in several neuronal types and subtypes including ganglion, amacrine, bipolar, and horizontal cells, and that their expression in ganglion cells depends on the ganglion cell specification factor Brn3b. Misexpressed Ebfs bias retinal precursors toward the fates of non-AII glycinergic amacrine, type 2 OFF-cone bipolar and horizontal cells, whereas a dominant-negative Ebf suppresses the differentiation of these cells as well as ganglion cells. Reducing Ebf1 expression by RNA interference (RNAi) leads to an inhibitory effect similar to that of the dominant-negative Ebf, effectively neutralizes the promotive effect of wild-type Ebf1, but has no impact on the promotive effect of an RNAi-resistant Ebf1. These data indicate that Ebfs are both necessary and sufficient for specifying non-AII glycinergic amacrine, type 2 OFF-cone bipolar and horizontal cells, whereas they are only necessary but not sufficient for specifying ganglion cells; and further suggest that Ebfs may coordinate and cooperate with other retinogenic factors to ensure proper specification and differentiation of diverse retinal cell types and subtypes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Bromodeoxyuridine / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology*
  • Electroporation / methods
  • Embryo, Mammalian
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / physiology*
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase / metabolism
  • Glycine / metabolism
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / genetics
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • In Situ Nick-End Labeling / methods
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Neurons / classification*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • RNA, Small Interfering / metabolism
  • Retina / cytology*
  • Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Trans-Activators / genetics
  • Transcription Factor Brn-3B / deficiency
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism


  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • Ebf1 protein, mouse
  • Ebf2 protein, mouse
  • Ebf3 protein, mouse
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Pou4f2 protein, mouse
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Trans-Activators
  • Transcription Factor Brn-3B
  • Transcription Factors
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase
  • glutamate decarboxylase 2
  • Bromodeoxyuridine
  • Glycine