Noncoding Mutations in a Thyroid Hormone Receptor Gene That Impair Cone Photoreceptor Function

Hong Liu, Ailing Lu, Kevin A. Kelley, Douglas Forrest

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The function of a hormone receptor requires mechanisms to control precisely where, when, and at what level the receptor gene is expressed. An intriguing case concerns the selective induction of thyroid hormone receptor β2 (TRβ2), encoded by Thrb, in the pituitary and also in cone photoreceptors, in which it critically regulates expression of the opsin photopigments that mediate color vision. Here, we investigate the physiological significance of a candidate enhancer for induction of TRβ2 by mutagenesis of a conserved intron region in its natural context in the endogenous Thrb gene in mice. Mutation of e-box sites for bHLH (basic-helix-loop-helix) transcription factors preferentially impairs TRβ2 expression in cones whereas mutation of nearby sequences preferentially impairs expression in pituitary. A deletion encompassing all sites impairs expression in both tissues, indicating bifunctional activity. In cones, the e-box mutations disrupt chromatin acetylation, blunt the developmental induction of TRβ2, and ultimately impair cone opsin expression and sensitivity to longer wavelengths of light. These results demonstrate the necessity of studying an enhancer in its natural chromosomal context for defining biological relevance and reveal surprisingly critical nuances of level and timing of enhancer function. Our findings illustrate the influence of noncoding sequences over thyroid hormone functions.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number3
StatePublished - 9 Jan 2023


  • THRB
  • color vision
  • enhancer
  • retina
  • thyroid hormone receptor


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