Molecular and cellular biology

Rax Homeoprotein Regulates Photoreceptor Cell Maturation and Survival in Association with Crx in the Postnatal Mouse Retina.

PMID 25986607


The Rax homeobox gene plays essential roles in multiple processes of vertebrate retina development. Many vertebrate species possess Rax and Rax2 genes, and different functions have been suggested. In contrast, mice contain a single Rax gene, and its functional roles in late retinal development are still unclear. To clarify mouse Rax function in postnatal photoreceptor development and maintenance, we generated conditional knockout mice in which Rax in maturing or mature photoreceptor cells was inactivated by tamoxifen treatment (Rax iCKO mice). When Rax was inactivated in postnatal Rax iCKO mice, developing photoreceptor cells showed a significant decrease in the level of the expression of rod and cone photoreceptor genes and mature adult photoreceptors exhibited a specific decrease in cone cell numbers. In luciferase assays, we found that Rax and Crx cooperatively transactivate Rhodopsin and cone opsin promoters and that an optimum Rax expression level to transactivate photoreceptor gene expression exists. Furthermore, Rax and Crx colocalized in maturing photoreceptor cells, and their coimmunoprecipitation was observed in cultured cells. Taken together, these results suggest that Rax plays essential roles in the maturation of both cones and rods and in the survival of cones by regulating photoreceptor gene expression with Crx in the postnatal mouse retina.

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