POU domain transcription factor Brn3b is critical for the normal development and survival of retinal ganglion cells

Suzanna Elizabeth Martin, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


The POU domain transcription factor Brn3b/POU4F2 plays a critical role regulating gene expression in mouse retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). Previous investigations have shown that Brn3b is not required for initial cell fate specification or migration; however, it is essential for normal RGC differentiation. In contrast to wild type axons, the mutant neurites were phenotypically different: shorter, rougher, disorganized, and poorly fasciculated. Wild type axons stained intensely with axon specific marker tau-1, while mutant projections were weakly stained and the mutant projections showed strong labeling with dendrite specific marker MAP2. Brn-3b mutant axonal projections contained more microtubules and fewer neurofilaments, a dendritic characteristic, than the wild type. The mutant neurites also exhibited significantly weaker staining of neurofilament low-molecular-weight (NF-L) in the axon when compared to the wild type, and NF-L accumulation in the neuron cell body. The absence of Brn-3b results in an inability to form normal axons and enhanced apoptosis in RGCs, suggesting that Brn-3b may control a set of genes involved in axon formation. Brn3b contains several distinct sequence motifs: a glycine/serine rich region, two histidine rich regions, and a fifteen amino acid conserved sequence shared by all Brn3 family members in the N-terminus and a POU specific and POU homeodomain in the C-terminus. Brn3b activates a Luciferase reporter over 25 fold in cell culture when binding to native brn3 binding sites upstream of a minimal promoter. When fused to the Gal4 DNA Binding domain (DBD) and driven by either a strong (CMV) or weaker (pAHD) promoter, the N-terminal of Brn3b is capable of similar activation when binding to Gal4 UAS sites, indicating a presumptive activator of transcription. Both full length Brn3b or the C-terminus fused to the Gal4DBD and driven by pCMV repressed a Luciferase reporter downstream of UAS binding sites. Lower levels of expression of the fusion protein driven by pADH resulted in an alleviation of repression. This repression appears to be a limitation of this system of transcriptional analysis and a potential pitfall in conventional pCMV based transfection assays.

Subject Area

Genetics|Molecular biology|Neurology

Recommended Citation

Martin, Suzanna Elizabeth, "POU domain transcription factor Brn3b is critical for the normal development and survival of retinal ganglion cells" (2005). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3168443.