Activin Signals through SMAD2/3 to Increase Photoreceptor Precursor Yield during Embryonic Stem Cell Differentiation.
ABSTRACT: In vitro differentiation of mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs) into retinal fates can be used to study the roles of exogenous factors acting through multiple signaling pathways during retina development. Application of activin A during a specific time frame that corresponds to early embryonic retinogenesis caused increased generation of CRX+ photoreceptor precursors and decreased PAX6+ retinal progenitor cells (RPCs). Following activin A treatment, SMAD2/3 was activated in RPCs and bound to promoter regions of key RPC and photoreceptor genes. The effect of activin on CRX expression was repressed by pharmacological inhibition of SMAD2/3 phosphorylation. Activin signaling through SMAD2/3 in RPCs regulates expression of transcription factors involved in cell type determination and promotes photoreceptor lineage specification. Our findings can contribute to the production of photoreceptors for cell replacement therapy.
Project description:The development of the mammalian retina is a complicated process involving the generation of distinct types of neurons from retinal progenitor cells (RPCs) in a spatiotemporal-specific manner. The progression of RPCs during retinogenesis includes RPC proliferation, cell-fate commitment, and specific neuronal differentiation. In this study, by performing single-cell RNA sequencing of cells isolated from human embryonic stem cell (hESC)-derived 3D retinal organoids, we successfully deconstructed the temporal progression of RPCs during early human retinogenesis. We identified two distinctive subtypes of RPCs with unique molecular profiles, namely multipotent RPCs and neurogenic RPCs. We found that genes related to the Notch and Wnt signaling pathways, as well as chromatin remodeling, were dynamically regulated during RPC commitment. Interestingly, our analysis identified that CCND1, a G1-phase cell-cycle regulator, was coexpressed with ASCL1 in a cell-cycle-independent manner. Temporally controlled overexpression of CCND1 in retinal organoids demonstrated a role for CCND1 in promoting early retinal neurogenesis. Together, our results revealed critical pathways and novel genes in early retinogenesis of humans.
Project description:In the developing retina, as in other regions of the CNS, neural progenitors give rise to individual cell types during discrete temporal windows. Pax6 is expressed in retinal progenitor cells (RPCs) throughout the course of retinogenesis, and has been shown to be required during early retinogenesis for generation of most early-born cell types. In this study, we examined the function of Pax6 in postnatal mouse retinal development. We found that Pax6 is essential for the generation of late-born interneurons, while inhibiting photoreceptor differentiation. Generation of bipolar interneurons requires Pax6 expression in RPCs, while Pax6 is required for the generation of glycinergic, but not for GABAergic or non-GABAergic-non-glycinergic (nGnG) amacrine cell subtypes. In contrast, overexpression of either full-length Pax6 or its 5a isoform in RPCs induces formation of cells with nGnG amacrine features, and suppresses generation of other inner retinal cell types. Moreover, overexpression of both Pax6 variants prevents photoreceptor differentiation, most likely by inhibiting Crx expression. Taken together, these data show that Pax6 acts in RPCs to control differentiation of multiple late-born neuronal cell types.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Maintaining the correct balance of proliferation versus differentiation in retinal progenitor cells (RPCs) is essential for proper development of the retina. The cell cycle regulator cyclin D1 is expressed in RPCs, and mice with a targeted null allele at the cyclin D1 locus (Ccnd1-/-) have microphthalmia and hypocellular retinas, the latter phenotype attributed to reduced RPC proliferation and increased photoreceptor cell death during the postnatal period. How cyclin D1 influences RPC behavior, especially during the embryonic period, is unclear.<h4>Results</h4>In this study, we show that embryonic RPCs lacking cyclin D1 progress through the cell cycle at a slower rate and exit the cell cycle at a faster rate. Consistent with enhanced cell cycle exit, the relative proportions of cell types born in the embryonic period, such as retinal ganglion cells and photoreceptor cells, are increased. Unexpectedly, cyclin D1 deficiency decreases the proportions of other early born retinal neurons, namely horizontal cells and specific amacrine cell types. We also found that the laminar positioning of horizontal cells and other cell types is altered in the absence of cyclin D1. Genetically replacing cyclin D1 with cyclin D2 is not efficient at correcting the phenotypes due to the cyclin D1 deficiency, which suggests the D-cyclins are not fully redundant. Replacement with cyclin E or inactivation of cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p27Kip1 restores the balance of RPCs and retinal cell types to more normal distributions, which suggests that regulation of the retinoblastoma pathway is an important function for cyclin D1 during embryonic retinal development.<h4>Conclusion</h4>Our findings show that cyclin D1 has important roles in RPC cell cycle regulation and retinal histogenesis. The reduction in the RPC population due to a longer cell cycle time and to an enhanced rate of cell cycle exit are likely to be the primary factors driving retinal hypocellularity and altered output of precursor populations in the embryonic Ccnd1-/- retina.
Project description:Throughout the developing central nervous system, pre-patterning of the ventricular zone into discrete neural progenitor domains is one of the predominant strategies used to produce neuronal diversity in a spatially coordinated manner. In the retina, neurogenesis proceeds in an intricate chronological and spatial sequence, yet it remains unclear whether retinal progenitor cells (RPCs) display intrinsic heterogeneity at any given time point. Here, we performed a detailed study of RPC fate upon temporally and spatially confined inactivation of Pax6. Timed genetic removal of Pax6 appeared to unmask a cryptic divergence of RPCs into qualitatively divergent progenitor pools. In the more peripheral RPCs under normal circumstances, Pax6 seemed to prevent premature activation of a photoreceptor-differentiation pathway by suppressing expression of the transcription factor Crx. More centrally, Pax6 contributed to the execution of the comprehensive potential of RPCs: Pax6 ablation resulted in the exclusive generation of amacrine interneurons. Together, these data suggest an intricate dual role for Pax6 in retinal neurogenesis, while pointing to the cryptic divergence of RPCs into distinct progenitor pools.
Project description:During development, neural progenitors change their competence states over time to sequentially generate different types of neurons and glia. Several cascades of temporal transcription factors (tTFs) have been discovered in Drosophila to control the temporal identity of neuroblasts, but the temporal regulation mechanism is poorly understood in vertebrates. Mammalian retinal progenitor cells (RPCs) give rise to several types of neuronal and glial cells following a sequential yet overlapping temporal order. Here, by temporal cluster analysis, RNA-sequencing analysis, and loss-of-function and gain-of-function studies, we show that the Fox domain TF Foxn4 functions as a tTF during retinogenesis to confer RPCs with the competence to generate the mid/late-early cell types: amacrine, horizontal, cone, and rod cells, while suppressing the competence of generating the immediate-early cell type: retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). In early embryonic retinas, Foxn4 inactivation causes down-regulation of photoreceptor marker genes and decreased photoreceptor generation but increased RGC production, whereas its overexpression has the opposite effect. Just as in Drosophila, Foxn4 appears to positively regulate its downstream tTF Casz1 while negatively regulating its upstream tTF Ikzf1. Moreover, retina-specific ablation of Foxn4 reveals that it may be indirectly involved in the synaptogenesis, establishment of laminar structure, visual signal transmission, and long-term maintenance of the retina. Together, our data provide evidence that Foxn4 acts as a tTF to bias RPCs toward the mid/late-early cell fates and identify a missing member of the tTF cascade that controls RPC temporal identities to ensure the generation of proper neuronal diversity in the retina.
Project description:Adequate supply of choline, an essential nutrient, is necessary to support proper brain development. Whether prenatal choline availability plays a role in development of the visual system is currently unknown. In this study, we addressed the role of in utero choline supply for the development and later function of the retina in a mouse model. We lowered choline availability in the maternal diet during pregnancy and assessed proliferative and differentiation properties of retinal progenitor cells (RPCs) in the developing prenatal retina, as well as visual function in adult offspring. We report that low choline availability during retinogenesis leads to persistent retinal cytoarchitectural defects, ranging from focal lesions with displacement of retinal neurons into subretinal space to severe hypocellularity and ultrastructural defects in photoreceptor organization. We further show that low choline availability impairs timely differentiation of retinal neuronal cells, such that the densities of early-born retinal ganglion cells, amacrine and horizontal cells, as well as cone photoreceptor precursors, are reduced in low choline embryonic d 17.5 retinas. Maintenance of higher proportions of RPCs that fail to exit the cell cycle underlies aberrant neuronal differentiation in low choline embryos. Increased RPC cell cycle length, and associated reduction in neurofibromin 2/Merlin protein, an upstream regulator of the Hippo signaling pathway, at least in part, explain aberrant neurogenesis in low choline retinas. Furthermore, we find that animals exposed to low choline diet in utero exhibit a significant degree of intraindividual variation in vision, characterized by marked functional discrepancy between the 2 eyes in individual animals. Together, our findings demonstrate, for the first time, that choline availability plays an essential role in the regulation of temporal progression of retinogenesis and provide evidence for the importance of adequate supply of choline for proper development of the visual system.-Trujillo-Gonzalez, I., Friday, W. B., Munson, C. A., Bachleda, A., Weiss, E. R., Alam, N. M., Sha, W., Zeisel, S. H., Surzenko, N. Low availability of choline in utero disrupts development and function of the retina.
Project description:To evaluate the contribution of the DNA methylation and DNA demethylation pathways in retinal development, we studied DNA methylation in retinal progenitor cells (RPCs) and retinal neurons using a combination of whole genome bisulfite sequencing (WGBS) data obtained in our study and WGBS data collected from previous studies. The data was analyzed using Hidden Markov Model- and change point-based methods to identify methylome states in different segments of the studied genomes following genome annotation. We found that promoters of rod and cone phototransduction genes and rod photoreceptor genes, but not genes required for the development and function of other retinal phenotypes, were highly methylated in DNA isolated from human and murine fetal retinas (which mostly contain RPCs) and postnatal murine RPCs. While these highly methylated genomic regions were inherited by non-photoreceptor phenotypes during RPC differentiation, the methylation of these promoters was significantly reduced during RPC differentiation into photoreceptors and accompanied by increased expression of these genes. Our analysis of DNA methylation during embryogenesis revealed low methylation levels in genomic regions containing photoreceptor genes at the inner cell mass stage, but a sharp increase in methylation at the epiblast stage, which remained the same later on (except for DNA demethylation in photoreceptors). Thus, our data suggest that the DNA demethylation pathway is required for photoreceptor phenotypes in the developing retina. Meanwhile, the role of the DNA methylation and DNA demethylation pathways during RPC differentiation into non-photoreceptor retinal phenotypes might be less important.
Project description:Extrinsic cues and intrinsic competence act in concert for cell fate determination in the developing vertebrate retina. However, what controls competence and how precise is the control are largely unknown. We studied the regulation of competence by examining the order in which individual retinal progenitor cells (RPCs) generate daughters. Experiments were performed in Xenopus laevis, whose full complement of retinal cells is formed in 2 days. We lineage-labeled RPCs at the optic vesicle stage. Subsequently we administered a cell cycle marker, 5-bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) at early, middle or late periods of retinogenesis. Under these conditions, and in this animal, BrdU is not cleared by the time of analysis, allowing cumulative labeling. All retinal cell types were generated throughout nearly the entire retinogenesis period. When we examined the order that individual RPCs generated daughters, we discovered a regular and consistent sequence according to phenotype: RGC, Ho, CPr, RPr, Am, BP, MG. The precision of the order between the clones supports a model in which RPCs proceed through stepwise changes in competence to make each cell type, and do so unidirectionally. Because every cell type can be generated simultaneously within the same retinal environment, the change in RPC competence is likely to be autonomous.
Project description:Retinal degenerative diseases ultimately result into irreversible photoreceptor death or loss. At present, the most promising treatment for these diseases is cell replacement therapy. Müller glia are the major glia in the retina, displaying cardinal features of retinal progenitor cells, and can be candidate of seed cells for retinal degenerative diseases. Here, mouse retinal Müller glia dissociated and cultured in vitro amplified and were dedifferentiated into Müller glia-derived progenitors (MGDPs), demonstrating expression of stem/progenitor cell markers Nestin, Sox2 and self-renewal capacity. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) play unique roles in the retinogenesis, so we hypothesized miRNAs would contribute to photoreceptor lineage commitment of MGDPs. By TargetScan, Miranda, and Pictar bioinformatics, gain/loss-of-function models, dual luciferase assay, we identified and validated that miR-28 targeted the photoreceptor-specific CRX transcription factor. Anti-miR-28 could induce MGDPs to differentiate into neurons strongly expressing CRX and Rhodopsin, while miR-28 mimic suppressed CRX and Rhodopsin expression. Knockdown of CRX by siRNA blocked the expression of CRX and Rhodospin upregulated by anti-miR-28, indicating that anti-miR-28 potentially induced photoreceptor commitment of MGDPs by targeting CRX, but more experiments are necessary to confirm their role in differentiation.
Project description:To replace photoreceptors lost to disease or trauma and restore vision, laboratories around the world are investigating photoreceptor replacement strategies using subretinal transplantation of photoreceptor precursor cells (PPCs) and retinal progenitor cells (RPCs). Significant obstacles to advancement of photoreceptor cell-replacement include low migration rates of transplanted cells into host retina and an absence of data describing chemotactic signaling guiding migration of transplanted cells in the damaged retinal microenvironment. To elucidate chemotactic signaling guiding transplanted cell migration, bioinformatics modeling of PPC transplantation into light-damaged retina was performed. The bioinformatics modeling analyzed whole-genome expression data and matched PPC chemotactic cell-surface receptors to cognate ligands expressed in the light-damaged retinal microenvironment. A library of significantly predicted chemotactic ligand-receptor pairs, as well as downstream signaling networks was generated. PPC and RPC migration in microfluidic ligand gradients were analyzed using a highly predicted ligand-receptor pair, SDF-1? - CXCR4, and both PPCs and RPCs exhibited significant chemotaxis. This work present a systems level model and begins to elucidate molecular mechanisms involved in PPC and RPC migration within the damaged retinal microenvironment.