Purpose: Previously we identified POU6F2 as a genetic link between central corneal thickness (CCT) and risk of open-angle glaucoma. The present study is designed to characterize the POU6F2-positive retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). Methods: The Thy1-YFP-H mouse was used to identify the structure of POU6F2-positive RGCs in the retina. In the retina of the Thy1-YFP-H mouse approximately 3% of the RGCs were labeled with yellow fluorescent protein. These retinas were stained for POU6F2 to identify the morphology of the POU6F2 subtypes in 3D reconstructions of the labeled RGCs. Multiple retinal cell markers were also co-stained with POU6F2 to characterize the molecular signature of the POU6F2-positive RGCs. DBA/2J glaucoma models were used to test the role of POU6F2 in injury. Results: In the retina POU6F2 labels 32.9% of the RGCs in the DBA/2J retina (16.1% heavily and 16.8% lightly labeled). In 3D constructions of Thy1-YFP-H positive RGCs, the heavily labeled POU6F2-positive cells had dendrites in the inner plexiform layer that were bistratified and appeared to be ON-OFF directionally selective cells. The lightly labeled POU6F2 RGCs displayed 3 different dendritic distributions, with dendrites in the ON sublaminae only, OFF sublaminae only, or bistratified. The POU6F2-positive cells partially co-stained with Cdh6. The POU6F2-positive cells do not co-stain with CART and SATB2 (markers for ON-OFF directionally selective RGC), SMI32 (a marker for alpha RGCs), or ChAT and GAD67(markers for amacrine cells). The POU6F2-positive cells were sensitive to injury. In DBA/2J glaucoma model, at 8 months of age there was a 22% loss of RGCs (labeled with RBPMS) while there was 73% loss of the heavily labeled POU6F2 RGCs. Conclusions: POU6F2 is a marker for a novel group of RGC subtypes that are ON-OFF directionally selective RGCs that are sensitive to glaucomatous injury.
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