The orphan nuclear hormone receptor ERRbeta controls rod photoreceptor survival
Mutation of rod photoreceptor-enriched transcription factors is a major cause of inherited blindness. We identified the orphan nuclear hormone receptor estrogen-related receptor beta (ERRbeta) as selectively expressed in rod photoreceptors. Overexpression of ERRbeta induces expression of rod-specific genes in retinas of wild-type as well as Nrl(-/-) mice, which lack rod photoreceptors. Mutation of ERRbeta results in dysfunction and degeneration of rods, whereas inverse agonists of ERRbeta trigger rapid rod degeneration, which is rescued by constitutively active mutants of ERRbeta. ERRbeta coordinates expression of multiple genes that are rate-limiting regulators of ATP generation and consumption in photoreceptors. Furthermore, enhancing ERRbeta activity rescues photoreceptor defects that result from loss of the photoreceptor-specific transcription factor Crx. Our findings demonstrate that ERRbeta is a critical regulator of rod photoreceptor function and survival, and suggest that ERRbeta agonists may be useful in the treatment of certain retinal dystrophies.
Pias3-dependent SUMOylation directs rod photoreceptor development
Specification of retinal rod photoreceptors is determined by several different transcription factors that activate expression of rod-specific genes and repress expression of cone photoreceptor-specific genes. The mechanism by which this dual regulation occurs is unclear. We have found that Pias3, a transcriptional coregulator and E3 SUMO ligase that is selectively expressed in developing photoreceptors, promotes the differentiation of rod photoreceptors while preventing rods from adopting cone photoreceptor-like characteristics. Pias3 binds the photoreceptor-specific transcription factors Crx and Nr2e3 and is specifically targeted to the promoters of photoreceptor-specific genes. Pias3 SUMOylates Nr2e3, converting it into a potent repressor of cone-specific gene expression. Rod- and cone-specific promoters are bound by hyperSUMOylated proteins in rod photoreceptors, and blocking SUMOylation in photoreceptors results in cells with morphological and molecular features of cones and an absence of rod-specific markers. Our data thus identify Pias3-mediated SUMOylation of photoreceptor-specific transcription factors as a key mechanism of rod specification.