MLL1 (KMT2A) and MLL2 (KMT2B) are homologous members of the mixed-lineage leukemia (MLL) family of histone methyltransferases involved in epigenomic transcriptional regulation. Their sequence variants have been associated with neurological and psychological disorders, but little is known about their roles and mechanism of action in CNS development. Using mouse retina as a model, we previously reported MLL1’s role in retinal neurogenesis and horizontal cell maintenance. Here we determine roles of MLL2 and MLL1/MLL2 together in retinal development using conditional knockout (CKO) mice. Deleting Mll2 from Chx10+ retinal progenitors resulted in a similar phenotype as Mll1 CKO, but removal of both alleles produced much more severe deficits than each single CKO: 1-month double CKO mutants displayed null light responses in electroretinogram; thin retinal layers, including shorter photoreceptor outer segments with impaired phototransduction gene expression; and reduced numbers of M-cones, horizontal and amacrine neurons, followed by fast retinal degeneration. Despite moderately reduced progenitor cell proliferation at P0, the neurogenic capacity was largely maintained in double CKO mutants. However, upregulated apoptosis and reactive gliosis were detected during postnatal retinal development. Finally, the removal of both MLLs in fated rods produced a normal phenotype, but the CKO in M-cones impaired M-cone function and survival, indicating both cell non-autonomous and autonomous mechanisms. Altogether, our results suggest that MLL1/MLL2 play redundant roles in maintaining specific retinal neurons after cell fate specification and are essential for establishing functional neural networks.

Original languageEnglish
Article number829536
JournalFrontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology
StatePublished - Feb 9 2022


  • MLL1 (KMT2A)
  • MLL2 (KMT2B)
  • conditional knockout
  • functional maintenance
  • gene expression
  • histone modifications
  • retinal development


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