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Keywords:

  • retinal development;
  • cell fate determination;
  • progenitor cell competence;
  • retinal ganglion cell;
  • Notch;
  • Delta

Abstract

Although progenitor cells in developing vertebrate retina are capable of producing all retinal cell types, they are competent to produce only certain cell types at a given time, and this competence changes as development progresses. We asked whether a change in progenitor cell competence is primarily responsible for ending production of a specific cell type, the retinal ganglion cell. Reducing Notch expression using an antisense oligonucleotide in vitro or in vivo increased ganglion cell genesis. The antisense treatment could reinitiate ganglion cell genesis after it had terminated in a region of the retina, but only for a brief period. The failure of the Notch antisense treatment to reinitiate ganglion cell production after this period was not due to the lack of receptor or ligand expression, as both Notch-1 and Delta-1 were still expressed. The failure of the Notch antisense treatment to reinitiate ganglion cell production is consistent with the suggestion that the intrinsic competence of progenitor cells changes as development progresses. Because reducing Notch signaling can reinitiate ganglion cell production for a brief period after ganglion cell production has normally ceased, it appears that ganglion cell production initially ends in a region of the retina because of cell-cell interactions and not because progenitor cells lose the competence to make ganglion cells. Notch signaling appears to temporarily prevent production of ganglion cells in a region, while some other signal must initiate a change in progenitor cell competence, thus permanently ending the possibility of further ganglion cell production. © 2003 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Neurobiol 54: 511–524, 2003