DNA Methylation Dynamics During the Differentiation of Retinal Progenitor Cells Into Retinal Neurons Reveal a Role for the DNA Demethylation Pathway.
ABSTRACT: 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: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: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.
Project description:Increasing evidence suggests that dysregulation of lipid metabolism is associated with neurodegeneration in retinal diseases such as age-related macular degeneration and in brain disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. Lipid storage organelles (lipid droplets, LDs), accumulate in many cell types in response to stress, and it is now clear that LDs function not only as lipid stores but also as dynamic regulators of the stress response. However, whether these LDs are always protective or can also be deleterious to the cell is unknown. Here, we investigated the consequences of LD accumulation on retinal cell homeostasis under physiological and stress conditions in Drosophila and in mice. In wild-type Drosophila, we show that dFatp is required and sufficient for expansion of LD size in retinal pigment cells (RPCs) and that LDs in RPCs are required for photoreceptor survival during aging. Similarly, in mice, LD accumulation induced by RPC-specific expression of human FATP1 was non-toxic and promoted mitochondrial energy metabolism in RPCs and non-autonomously in photoreceptor cells. In contrast, the inhibition of LD accumulation by dFatp knockdown suppressed neurodegeneration in Aats-metFB Drosophila mutants, which carry elevated levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS). This suggests that abnormal turnover of LD may be toxic for photoreceptors cells of the retina under oxidative stress. Collectively, these findings indicate that FATP-mediated LD formation in RPCs promotes RPC and neuronal homeostasis under physiological conditions but could be deleterious for the photoreceptors under pathological conditions.
Project description:Strategies to improve retinal progenitor cell (RPC) capacity to yield proliferative and multipotent pools of cells that can efficiently differentiate into retinal neurons, including photoreceptors, could be vital for cell therapy in retinal degenerative diseases. In this study, we found that insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) plays a role in the regulation of proliferation and differentiation of RPCs. Our results show that IGF-1 promotes RPC proliferation via IGF-1 receptors (IGF-1Rs), stimulating increased phosphorylation in the PI3K/Akt and MAPK/Erk pathways. An inhibitor experiment revealed that IGF-1-induced RPC proliferation was inhibited when the PI3K/Akt and MAPK/Erk pathways were blocked. Furthermore, under the condition of differentiation, IGF-1-pretreated RPCs prefer to differentiate into retinal neurons, including photoreceptors, in vitro, which is crucial for visual formation and visual restoration. These results demonstrate that IGF-1 accelerates the proliferation of RPCs and IGF-1 pretreated RPCs may have shown an increased potential for retinal neuron differentiation, providing a novel strategy for regulating the proliferation and differentiation of retinal progenitors in vitro and shedding light upon the application of RPCs in retinal cell therapy.
Project description:Retinal progenitor cells (RPCs) hold great potential for the treatment of retinal degenerative diseases. However, their proliferation capacity and differentiation potential towards specific retinal neurons are limited, which limit their future clinical applications. Thus, it is important to improve the RPCs' ability to proliferate and differentiate. Currently, epidermal growth factor (EGF) is commonly used to stimulate RPC growth in vitro. In this study, we find that betacellulin (BTC), a member of the EGF family, plays important roles in the proliferation and differentiation of RPCs. Our results showed that BTC can significantly promote the proliferation of RPCs more efficiently than EGF. EGF stimulated RPC proliferation through the EGFR/ErbB2-Erk pathway, while BTC stimulated RPC proliferation more powerfully through the EGFR/ErbB2/ErbB4-Akt/Erk pathway. Meanwhile, under differentiated conditions, the BTC-pre-treated RPCs were preferentially differentiated into retinal neurons, including photoreceptors, one of the most important types of cells for retinal cell replacement therapy, compared to the EGF-pre-treated RPCs. In addition, knockdown of endogenous BTC expression can also obviously promote RPC differentiation into retinal neuronal cells. This data demonstrate that BTC plays important roles in promoting RPC proliferation and differentiation into retinal neurons. This study may provide new insights into the study of RPC proliferation and differentiation and make a step towards the application of RPCs in the treatment of retinal degenerative diseases.
Project description:Vertebrate retinal progenitor cells (RPCs) are pluripotent, but pass through competence states that progressively restrict their developmental potential (Cepko et al., 1996; Livesey and Cepko, 2001; Cayouette et al., 2006). In the rodent eye, seven retinal cell classes differentiate in overlapping waves, with RGCs, cone photoreceptors, horizontals, and amacrines forming predominantly before birth, and rod photoreceptors, bipolars, and Müller glia differentiating postnatally. Both intrinsic and extrinsic factors regulate each retinal cell type (for review, see Livesey and Cepko, 2001). Here, we conditionally deleted the transcription factor Rbpj, a critical integrator of multiple Notch signals (Jarriault et al., 1995; Honjo, 1996; Kato et al., 1997; Han et al., 2002), during prenatal mouse retinal neurogenesis. Removal of Rbpj caused reduced proliferation, premature neuronal differentiation, apoptosis, and profound mispatterning. To determine the cell autonomous requirements for Rbpj during RGC and cone formation, we marked Cre-generated retinal lineages with GFP expression, which showed that Rbpj autonomously promotes RPC mitotic activity, and suppresses RGC and cone fates. In addition, the progressive loss of Rbpj-/- RPCs resulted in a diminished progenitor pool available for rod photoreceptor formation. This circumstance, along with the overproduction of Rbpj-/- cones, revealed that photoreceptor development is under homeostatic regulation. Finally, to understand how the Notch pathway regulates the simultaneous formation of multiple cell types, we compared the RGC and cone phenotypes of Rbpj to Notch1 (Jadhav et al., 2006b; Yaron et al., 2006), Notch3, and Hes1 mutants. We found particular combinations of Notch pathway genes regulate the development of each retinal cell type.
Project description: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.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.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:Biocompatible polymer scaffolds are promising as potential carriers for the delivery of retinal progenitor cells (RPCs) in cell replacement therapy for the repair of damaged or diseased retinas. The primary goal of the present study was to investigate the effects of blended electrospun nanofibrous membranes of silk fibroin (SF) and poly(L-lactic acid-co-?-caprolactone) (PLCL), a novel scaffold, on the biological behaviour of RPCs in vitro. To assess the cell-scaffold interaction, RPCs were cultured on SF/PLCL scaffolds for indicated durations. Our data revealed that all the SF/PLCL scaffolds were thoroughly cytocompatible, and the SF:PLCL (1:1) scaffolds yielded the best RPC growth. The in vitro proliferation assays showed that RPCs proliferated more quickly on the SF:PLCL (1:1) than on the other scaffolds and the control. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) and immunocytochemistry analyses demonstrated that RPCs grown on the SF:PLCL (1:1) scaffolds preferentially differentiated toward retinal neurons, including, most interestingly, photoreceptors. In summary, we demonstrated that the SF:PLCL (1:1) scaffolds can not only markedly promote RPC proliferation with cytocompatibility for RPC growth but also robustly enhance RPCs' differentiation toward specific retinal neurons of interest in vitro, suggesting that SF:PLCL (1:1) scaffolds may have potential applications in retinal cell replacement therapy in the future.
Project description:The specification of the seven retinal cell types from a common pool of retina progenitor cells (RPCs) involves complex interactions between the intrinsic program and the environment. The proneural basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcriptional regulators are key components for the intrinsic programming of RPCs and are essential for the formation of the diverse retinal cell types. However, the extent to which an RPC can re-adjust its inherent program and the mechanisms through which the expression of a particular bHLH factor influences RPC fate is unclear. Previously, we have shown that Neurod1 inserted into the Atoh7 locus activates the retinal ganglion cell (RGC) program in Atoh7-expressing RPCs but not in Neurod1-expressing RPCs, suggesting that Atoh7-expressing RPCs are not able to adopt the cell fate determined by Neurod1, but rather are pre-programmed to produce RGCs. Here, we show that Neurod1-expressing RPCs, which are destined to produce amacrine and photoreceptor cells, can be re-programmed into RGCs when Atoh7 is inserted into the Neurod1 locus. These results suggest that Atoh7 acts dominantly to convert a RPC subpopulation not destined for an RGC fate to adopt that fate. Thus, Atoh7-expressing and Neurod1-expressing RPCs are intrinsically different in their behavior. Additionally, ChIP-Seq analysis identified an Atoh7-dependent enhancer within the intronic region of Nrxn3. The enhancer recognized and used Atoh7 in the developing retina to regulate expression of Nrxn3, but could be forced to use Neurod1 when placed in a different regulatory context. The results indicate that Atoh7 and Neurod1 activate distinct sets of genes in vivo, despite their common DNA-binding element.
Project description:The vertebrate retina comprises sensory neurons, the photoreceptors, as well as many other types of neurons and one type of glial cell. These cells are generated by multipotent and restricted retinal progenitor cells (RPCs), which express Notch1. Loss of Notch1 in RPCs late during retinal development results in the overproduction of rod photoreceptors at the expense of interneurons and glia.To examine the molecular underpinnings of this observation, microarray analysis of single retinal cells from wild-type or Notch1 conditional knockout retinas was performed. In situ hybridization was carried out to validate some of the findings.The majority of Notch1-mutant cells lost expression of known Notch target genes. These cells also had low levels of RPC and cell cycle genes, and robustly up-regulated rod precursor genes. In addition, single wild-type cells, in which cell cycle marker genes were down-regulated, expressed markers of both rod photoreceptors and interneurons.