NRL, a bZIP transcription factor of the Maf subfamily, interacts with the homeodomain protein CRX and synergistically regulates rhodopsin expression. Here we report that six isoforms of NRL (29-35 kDa) are generated by phosphorylation and expressed specifically in the mammalian retina. The anti-NRL antibody also cross-reacts with a cytosolic 45-kDa protein, which is detected in neuronal tissues but is not encoded by the NRL gene. In both human retinal cell cultures and sections of fetal and adult human retina, NRL is present in the nuclei of developing and mature rods but not cones. We propose that NRL regulates rod photoreceptor-specific gene expression and is involved in rod differentiation.
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