Retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) are the output neuron of the eye, transmitting visual information from the retina through the optic nerve to the brain. The importance of RGCs for vision is demonstrated in blinding diseases where RGCs are lost, such as in glaucoma or after optic nerve injury. In the present study, we hypothesize that normal RGC function is transcriptionally regulated. To test our hypothesis, we examine large retinal expression microarray datasets from recombinant inbred mouse strains in GeneNetwork and define transcriptional networks of RGCs and their subtypes. Two major and functionally distinct transcriptional networks centering around Thy1 and Tubb3 (Class III beta-tubulin) were identified. Each network is independently regulated and modulated by unique genomic loci. Meta-analysis of publically available data confirms that RGC subtypes are differentially susceptible to death, with alpha-RGCs and intrinsically photosensitive RGCs (ipRGCs) being less sensitive to cell death than other RGC subtypes in a mouse model of glaucoma.
Keywords: gene regulatory networks; recombinant inbred strain; retinal ganglion cells; subtypes; transcription factors.