How retinal nerve cells choose their specific identities
Understanding how the development of different nerve cells is coordinated to generate the vast complexity of the nervous system is a challenging problem. The retina has long served as a model system for understanding general processes of neuronal development since, like the brain, it is highly organized. However, due to the location of the eye, the retina is a more accessible part of the nervous system, making it easier to study. Furthermore, even though the types of retinal neurons have been characterized, the genes that control their production are still not fully understood. My lab has taken two general approaches to gain a more thorough understanding of how retinal nerve cells acquire their unique properties during development. First, we have used our state-of-the-art single cell methodology to examine the genetic programs operating in individual retinal cells as they develop. We have performed these experiments in three different organisms (mouse, chicken and zebrafish) with the underlying hypothesis that the most conserved genes and mechanisms will be the most critical for determining the uniqueness of different retinal cells. Second, we have taken a more functional approach and characterized the phenotypes of mice lacking four different genes identified in our single cell analysis as potentially important for cell fate acquisition. Through this combinatorial approach, we have the ability to disentangle the cellular complexity and understand the precise mechanisms that operate on a cell--‐by--‐cell basis to push a cell toward acquiring a specific cellular identity. The lessons and genes that we identify will be of importance to those researchers seeking to use stem cells to produce large numbers of retinal neurons for a variety of potential eye disease treatments.
Refreshments in the MBB atrium at 3:45 before the seminar.
Host: Jo Anne Powell-Coffman (firstname.lastname@example.org)