Gene expression and differentiation characteristics in mice E13.5 and E17.5 neural retinal progenitors.

Xuerong Sun, Ruzhang Jiang, Yuehong Zhang, Mengfei Chen, Peng Xiang, Ying Qi, Qianying Gao, Bing Huang, Jian Ge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: Retinal progenitor cells (RPCs) are the most valuable seed cells in replacement therapy for neural retinal diseases. The competence of RPCs changes with retinal development. Gene expression plays a fundamental role in determining the competence. To improve the selection of the right-timing RPCs for replacement therapy, we compared the gene expression between embryonic day (E) 13.5 and E17.5 RPCs and further explored their gene expression and differentiation capacity in vitro. METHODS: Timed-pregnant E13.5 and E17.5 RPCs were freshly harvested and cultured in proliferation conditions for 4 days and then in differentiation conditions for 8 days. At different time points, the expression of key genes involved in retinal development was investigated by quantitative reverse transcription-PCR or immunofluorescence. RESULTS: The expression of 14 key genes involved in retinal development was investigated in freshly harvested E13.5 and E17.5 RPCs. The freshly harvested E13.5 RPCs showed a high expression of retinal ganglion cell (RGC)-related genes, including Math5, Brn3b, Islet1, and Nfl, while the freshly harvested E17.5 RPCs displayed a high expression for Nrl, GFAP, and Thy1, the key genes involved in rod photoreceptor development, glial cell development, and synaptogenesis, respectively. During proliferation culture in vitro, the gene expression changed dramatically in both RPCs. After the 4 days of proliferation culture, the expression levels of most genes (11 of the 14 genes) in E13.5 RPCs came close to those in the freshly harvested E17.5 RPCs. Differentiation of RPCs in vitro was verified by the significant decrease in Nestin expression and BruU incorporation efficiency. After the 8 days of differentiation in vitro, the expression level of RGC-related genes (Math5, Brn3b, and Islet1) was still significantly higher in E13.5 RPCs than in E17.5 RPCs. In contrast, the expression level of Nrl and GFAP was significantly higher in E17.5 RPCs than in E13.5 RPCs. In morphology, the differentiated E13.5 RPCs displayed more robust process outgrowth than did the differentiated E17.5 RPCs. Immunofluorescence showed that, after the 8 days of differentiation, E13.5 RPCs contained more Brn3b- and Map2-positive cells, while E17.5 RPCs contained more GFAP-, GS-, and Rhodopsin-positive cells. CONCLUSIONS: The results implied that E13.5 RPCs might be a better choice for RGC replacement therapy, while E17.5 RPCs might be better for photoreceptor replacement therapy. The duration of in vitro culture should be timed, since the expression of key genes kept changing in the proliferating RPCs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2503-2514
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular vision
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology


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