Vsx2 is a transcription factor essential for retinal proliferation and bipolar cell differentiation, but the molecular mechanisms underlying its developmental roles are unclear. Here, we have profiled VSX2 genomic occupancy during mouse retinogenesis, revealing extensive retinal genetic programs associated with VSX2 during development. VSX2 binds and transactivates its enhancer in association with the transcription factor PAX6. Mice harboring deletions in the Vsx2 regulatory landscape exhibit specific abnormalities in retinal proliferation and in bipolar cell differentiation. In one of those deletions, a complete loss of bipolar cells is associated with a bias towards photoreceptor production. VSX2 occupies cis-regulatory elements nearby genes associated with photoreceptor differentiation and homeostasis in the adult mouse and human retina, including a conserved region nearby Prdm1, a factor implicated in the specification of rod photoreceptors and suppression of bipolar cell fate. VSX2 interacts with the transcription factor OTX2 and can act to suppress OTX2-dependent enhancer transactivation of the Prdm1 enhancer. Taken together, our analyses indicate that Vsx2 expression can be temporally and spatially uncoupled at the enhancer level, and they illuminate important mechanistic insights into how VSX2 is engaged with gene regulatory networks that are essential for retinal proliferation and cell fate acquisition.

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