Epigenomic landscapes of retinal rods and cones

Elife. 2016 Mar 7:5:e11613. doi: 10.7554/eLife.11613.


Rod and cone photoreceptors are highly similar in many respects but they have important functional and molecular differences. Here, we investigate genome-wide patterns of DNA methylation and chromatin accessibility in mouse rods and cones and correlate differences in these features with gene expression, histone marks, transcription factor binding, and DNA sequence motifs. Loss of NR2E3 in rods shifts their epigenomes to a more cone-like state. The data further reveal wide differences in DNA methylation between retinal photoreceptors and brain neurons. Surprisingly, we also find a substantial fraction of DNA hypo-methylated regions in adult rods that are not in active chromatin. Many of these regions exhibit hallmarks of regulatory regions that were active earlier in neuronal development, suggesting that these regions could remain undermethylated due to the highly compact chromatin in mature rods. This work defines the epigenomic landscapes of rods and cones, revealing features relevant to photoreceptor development and function.

Keywords: DNA methylation; chromatin; evolutionary biology; genomics; mouse; neuroscience; retinal development; retinal photoreceptors; transcription factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA / metabolism
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Methylation
  • Mice
  • Retinal Cone Photoreceptor Cells / physiology*
  • Retinal Rod Photoreceptor Cells / physiology*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Histones
  • Transcription Factors
  • DNA