Chromatin remodeler Chd7 regulates photoreceptor development and outer segment length

Laura A. Krueger, Jessica D. Bills, Zun Yi Lim, Jennifer M. Skidmore, Donna M. Martin, Ann C. Morris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mutations in the chromatin remodeling factor CHD7 are the predominant cause of CHARGE syndrome, a congenital disorder that frequently includes ocular coloboma. Although CHD7 is known to be required for proper ocular morphogenesis, its role in retinal development has not been thoroughly investigated. Given that individuals with CHARGE syndrome can experience visual impairment even in the absence of coloboma, a better understanding of CHD7 function in the retina is needed. In this study, we characterized the expression pattern of Chd7 in the developing zebrafish and mouse retina and documented ocular and retinal phenotypes in Chd7 loss-of-function mutants. Zebrafish Chd7 was expressed throughout the retinal neuroepithelium when retinal progenitor cells were actively proliferating, and later in subsets of newly post-mitotic retinal cells. At stages of retinal development when most retinal cell types had terminally differentiated, Chd7 expression remained strong in the ganglion cell layer and in some cells in the inner nuclear layer. Intriguingly, strong expression of Chd7 was also observed in the outer nuclear layer where it was co-expressed with markers of post-mitotic cone and rod photoreceptors. Expression of mouse CHD7 displayed a similar pattern, including expression in the ganglion cells, subsets of inner nuclear layer cells, and in the distal outer nuclear layer as late as P15. Two different mutant chd7 zebrafish lines were characterized for ocular and retinal defects. These mutants displayed microphthalmia, reduced numbers of cone photoreceptors, and truncated rod and cone photoreceptor outer segments. Reduced cone photoreceptor number and abnormal outer segments were also observed in heterozygous Chd7 mutant mice. Taken together, our results in zebrafish and mouse reveal a conserved, previously undescribed role for Chd7 in retinal development and photoreceptor outer segment morphogenesis. Moreover, our work suggests an avenue of future investigation into the pathogenesis of visual system defects in CHARGE syndrome.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109299
JournalExperimental Eye Research
StatePublished - Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022


  • CHARGE syndrome
  • CHD7
  • Photoreceptors
  • Retina
  • Zebrafish

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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