Modeling binary and graded cone cell fate patterning in the mouse retina

Kiara C. Eldred, Cameron Avelis, Robert J. Johnston, Elijah Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Nervous systems are incredibly diverse, with myriad neuronal subtypes defined by gene expression. How binary and graded fate characteristics are patterned across tissues is poorly understood. Expression of opsin photopigments in the cone photoreceptors of the mouse retina provides an excellent model to address this question. Individual cones express S-opsin only, M-opsin only, or both S-opsin and M-opsin. These cell populations are patterned along the dorsal-ventral axis, with greater M-opsin expression in the dorsal region and greater S-opsin expression in the ventral region. Thyroid hormone signaling plays a critical role in activating M-opsin and repressing S-opsin. Here, we developed an image analysis approach to identify individual cone cells and evaluate their opsin expression from immunofluorescence imaging tiles spanning roughly 6 mm along the D-V axis of the mouse retina. From analyzing the opsin expression of &tild;250,000 cells, we found that cones make a binary decision between S-opsin only and co-expression competent fates. Co-expression competent cells express graded levels of S- and M-opsins, depending nonlinearly on their position in the dorsal-ventral axis. M- and S-opsin expression display differential, inverse patterns. Using these single-cell data, we developed a quantitative, probabilistic model of cone cell decisions in the retinal tissue based on thyroid hormone signaling activity. The model recovers the probability distribution for cone fate patterning in the mouse retina and describes a minimal set of interactions that are necessary to reproduce the observed cell fates. Our study provides a paradigm describing how differential responses to regulatory inputs generate complex patterns of binary and graded cell fates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1007691
JournalPLoS computational biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Ecology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


Dive into the research topics of 'Modeling binary and graded cone cell fate patterning in the mouse retina'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this