Purpose: Recent advances in technology now provide tools capable of tracking genome-wide expression changes occurring in progressive pathological processes. The present experiments were carried out to determine if acetylcholine receptor α 6 subunit (Chrna6) is a reliable retinal ganglion cell (RGC) marker in adult mouse eyes and if Chrna6 expression can be used to track progressive loss of RGCs, such as is observed in the DBA/2J glaucoma model. Methods: Data sets derived from the BXD strains were used to extract gene expression signatures for RGCs. Pooled retinas from DBA/2J or C57BL/6J cases at 1-3 months, 12 months, and 16-17 months were prepared for gene-array and RT-PCR analysis. Globes were fixed in paraformaldehyde and sectioned for immunofluorescence with antibodies against Chrna6. Results: Chrna6 has a cellular expression signature for RGCs with high correlation to Thy1 (r = 0.65), a recognized RGC marker. Immunofluorescence experiments confirm that in the young and adult mouse retina, Chrna6 is preferentially expressed by RGCs. We further show that C3H/HeJ retinas, which lack photoreceptors, also express Chrna6 in the RGC layer. Gene expression array analyses, confirmed by RT-PCR, show progressive loss of Chrna6 expression in retinas of the DBA/2J glaucomatous mouse retinas. Conclusions: Quantitative trait locus analysis provides support for Chrna6 as a RGC marker. Chrna6 expression decreases with death of RGCs in glaucomatous DBA/2J mice and after optic nerve crush injury, further supporting Chrna6 as a reliable RGC marker. High expression of RGC Chrna6 in the absence of photoreceptors is suggestive that Chrna6 expression by RGCs is independent of photoreceptor-derived stimuli.
- Gene Network
- Neurodegenerative Diseases
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sensory Systems
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience