To assess the functions of the retinoblastoma protein (RB) during normal development, we have analyzed mouse embryos that lack a functional copy of the retinoblastoma gene (genotype: Rb-1(Δ20)/Rb-1(Δ20)). Our findings demonstrate that RB plays an important role in the regulation of the neuronal cell cycle. In mutant embryos, dividing cells are found well outside of the normal neurogenic regions in both the central and peripheral nervous systems. In addition to abnormal cell cycle regulation, however, the mutant embryos show two less expected phenotypes. First, many of the ectopically dividing cells die by apoptosis shortly after their entrance into S phase. In sensory ganglia, most nerve cells die by this process, beginning at about the same time as normal target-related neuronal death. Second, although the expression of certain differentiation markers such as N-CAM and Brn-3.0 appears to be near normal, nerve cells, especially in sensory ganglia, do not mature properly. Their morphology is stunted and expression of neuronal βII tubulin is greatly reduced. Preferential reduction in the expression of TrkA, TrkB, and the low-affinity neurotrophin receptor p75(LNGFR) may be relevant to neuronal cell death and lack of neuronal differentiation seen in the mutant embryos. Primary cultures of dorsal root and trigeminal ganglion cells from later stage mutant embryos reveal a decrease in neuronal cell survival and in neurite outgrowth even in the presence of the appropriate neurotrophins. Taken together, these results suggest that the p110(RB) protein not only regulates progression through the cell cycle but is also important for cell survival and differentiation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental Biology