Semaphorins not only function in axon guidance during development but also contribute to various other biological processes. We have now examined the expression of semaphorin 3A (Sema3A) and its receptor components neuropilin 1 (Npn1) and plexin A (PlxA) during development of the mouse retina. Immunohistofluorescence analysis revealed that the expression patterns of Sema3A and Npn1 were similar during embryonic and postnatal development. The expression pattern of PlxA was also similar to those of Sema3A and Npn1 during embryonic and early postnatal (before eye opening) developments. However, the pattern of PlxA expression changed markedly after eye opening, with the expression disappearing from the optic nerve and increasing in intensity in the retinal pigment epithelium. Immunoprecipitation analysis showed that Sema3A interacted with PlxA in the retinal pigment epithelial cell line ARPE19 but not in the retinal ganglion cell line RGC5, whereas the opposite pattern of association was apparent for Sema3A and Npn1. Given that atmospheric oxygen is thought to play a role in the differentiation and maintenance of various ocular cell types, our results suggest that Sema3A-PlxA signalling activated by an effect of ambient oxygen on PlxA expression may contribute to differentiation of the retinal pigment epithelium.
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