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Diversity demystified: Tbx20 sheds light on the molecular program of melanopsi-expressing retinal ganglion cells


Retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) are the output neurons of the eye responsible for relaying different aspects of the visual world to the brain. A rare subset of RGCs are important for processing information important for unconscious visual functions such as circadian rhythms, but operate independently of classical input from rod and cone photoreceptors. These intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs) have been intensely studied for more than a decade and are currently well understood in terms of morphology, physiology, and brain projections. However, we still have incomplete knowledge of what molecular program provide ipRGCs with their unique visual functions. Therefore, our research aims have been directed towards systematically identifying which genes are specifically expressed in ipRGCs and are in position to maintain ipRGC adult neuronal identity. My studies investigate a novel transcription factor, Tbx20, which is suggested by our transcriptomics studies to be enriched in ipRGCs compared to generic RGCs. Interestingly, Tbx20 expression in adult cardiomyocytes functions to repress alternative cell fates and promote the adult cell-specific identity. In our studies, Tbx20 is revealed to be expressed in a subset of the major ipRGC subtypes, and are well-positioned to be a primary factor important for maintaining their unique neuron identity into adulthood.


Saali, Alexandra, "Diversity demystified: Tbx20 sheds light on the molecular program of melanopsi-expressing retinal ganglion cells" (2015). Summer Research Symposium. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.



  • Summer Research Symposium

    Each year, Brown University showcases the research of its undergraduates at the Summer Research Symposium. More than half of the student-researchers are UTRA recipients, while others receive funding from a variety of Brown-administered and national programs and fellowships and go …