The mammalian retina contains a complex mixture of different types of neurons. We find that microRNA miR-216b is preferentially expressed in postmitotic retinal amacrine cells in the mouse retina, and expression of miR-216a/b and miR-217 in retina depend in part on Ptf1a, a transcription factor required for amacrine cell differentiation. Surprisingly, ectopic expression of miR-216b directed the formation of additional amacrine cells and reduced bipolar neurons in the developing retina. We identify the Foxn3 mRNA as a retinal target of miR-216b by Argonaute PAR-CLIP and reporter analysis. Inhibition of Foxn3, a transcription factor, in the postnatal developing retina by RNAi increased the formation of amacrine cells and reduced bipolar cell formation. Foxn3 disruption by CRISPR in embryonic retinal explants also increased amacrine cell formation, whereas Foxn3 overexpression inhibited amacrine cell formation prior to Ptf1a expression. Co-expression of Foxn3 partially reversed the effects of ectopic miR-216b on retinal cell formation. Our results identify Foxn3 as a novel regulator of interneuron formation in the developing retina and suggest that miR-216b likely regulates Foxn3 and other genes in amacrine cells.

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