Ezh2 maintains retinal progenitor proliferation, transcriptional integrity, and the timing of late differentiation

Jianmin Zhang, Russell J. Taylor, Anna La Torre Vila, Matthew S. Wilken, Kristen E. Cox, Thomas A. Reh, Monica L. Vetter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Epigenetic regulation, including histone modification, is a critical component of gene regulation, although precisely how this contributes to the development of complex tissues such as the neural retina is still being explored. We show that during retinal development in mouse, there are dynamic patterns of expression of the polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2) catalytic subunit EZH2 in retinal progenitors and some differentiated cells, as well as dynamic changes in the histone modification H3K27me3. Using conditional knockout of Ezh2 using either Pax6-αCre or Six3-Cre, we find selective reduction in postnatal retinal progenitor proliferation, disruption of retinal lamination, and enhanced differentiation of several late born cell types in the early postnatal retina, including photoreceptors and Müller glia, which are ultimately increased in number and become reactive. RNA-seq identifies many non-retinal genes upregulated with loss of Ezh2, including multiple Hox genes and the cell cycle regulator Cdkn2a, which are established targets of EZH2-mediated repression. ChIP analysis confirms loss of the H3K27me3 modification at these loci. Similar gene upregulation is observed in retinal explants treated with an EZH2 chemical inhibitor. There is considerable overlap with EZH2-regulated genes reported in non-neural tissues, suggesting that EZH2 can regulate similar genes in multiple lineages. Our findings reveal a conserved role for EZH2 in constraining the expression of potent developmental regulators to maintain lineage integrity and retinal progenitor proliferation, as well as regulating the timing of late differentiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)128-138
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopmental Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 15 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Histone modification
  • Neurogenesis
  • PRC2
  • Proliferation
  • Retina

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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