Transcriptome profiling of developing photoreceptor subtypes reveals candidate genes involved in avian photoreceptor diversification

Jennifer M. Enright, Karen A. Lawrence, Tarik Hadzic, Joseph C. Corbo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Avian photoreceptors are a diverse class of neurons, comprised of four single cones, the two members of the double cone, and rods. The signaling events and transcriptional regulators driving the differentiation of these diverse photoreceptors are largely unknown. In addition, many distinctive features of photoreceptor subtypes, including spectral tuning, oil droplet size and pigmentation, synaptic targets, and spatial patterning, have been well characterized, but the molecular mechanisms underlying these attributes have not been explored. To identify genes specifically expressed in distinct chicken (Gallus gallus) photoreceptor subtypes, we developed fluorescent reporters that label photoreceptor subpopulations, isolated these subpopulations by using fluorescence-activated cell sorting, and subjected them to next-generation sequencing. By comparing the expression profiles of photoreceptors labeled with rhodopsin, red opsin, green opsin, and violet opsin reporters, we have identified hundreds of differentially expressed genes that may underlie the distinctive features of these photoreceptor subtypes. These genes are involved in a variety of processes, including phototransduction, transcriptional regulation, cell adhesion, maintenance of intra- and extracellular structure, and metabolism. Of particular note are a variety of differentially expressed transcription factors, which may drive and maintain photoreceptor diversity, and cell adhesion molecules, which may mediate spatial patterning of photoreceptors and act to establish retinal circuitry. These analyses provide a framework for future studies that will dissect the role of these various factors in the differentiation of avian photoreceptor subtypes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)649-668
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


  • Bowtie (RRID:OMICS_00653)
  • Chicken
  • Cone
  • Cuffdiff (RRID: OMICS_01969)
  • Cufflinks (RRID:OMICS_01304)
  • EdgeR (RRID:OMICS_01308)
  • HTSeq (RRID:OMICS_01053)
  • Photoreceptor
  • RNA-Seq
  • Rod
  • SAMtools (RRID:nlx_154607)
  • TopHat (RRID:OMICS_01257)
  • Transcriptome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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