Involvement of numb in vertebrate retinal development: evidence for multiple roles of numb in neural differentiation and maturation

J Neurobiol. 2003 Feb 5;54(2):313-25. doi: 10.1002/neu.10176.


Cell fate specification is regulated in part by lateral inhibition mediated by Notch signaling. Notch signaling is negatively regulated by Numb, an intrinsic factor that regulates cellular competence. In this study we have examined the involvement of Numb in retinal development, which has been shown to be influenced by Notch signaling. In the developing retina, Numb is asymmetrically distributed towards the ventricular and vitreal poles of different cells. Asymmetric localization is evident not only in mitotic cells but in postmitotic ganglion cells as well, suggesting that the subcellular distribution of Numb may play a role after cells have exited the cell cycle. This is supported by the expression of Numb in terminally differentiated neurons in the adult retina. Although Numb is an intrinsic factor, it is observed that its subcellular distribution is influenced by epigenetic cues such that a higher proportion of cells cultured at high density express Numb asymmetrically. A correlation is observed between asymmetric localization and cellular competence; cells in which Numb is asymmetric differentiate more readily in culture than those that express Numb symmetrically. We have identified alternative splice variants in the developing and adult retina that correspond to isoforms that have been shown to regulate proliferation and differentiation. The dynamic temporal expression patterns of alternative splice variants and isoforms suggest that Numb may influence proliferation and differentiation of retinal progenitors during neurogenesis and maturation of postmitotic neurons. Together, these results demonstrate the complex role of the distribution of Numb within progenitors and postmitotic neurons.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alternative Splicing
  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Communication
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology*
  • Cells, Cultured / metabolism
  • Cellular Senescence / physiology*
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Embryo, Mammalian / cytology*
  • Embryonic and Fetal Development
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Juvenile Hormones / physiology*
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Morphogenesis / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Protein Isoforms / genetics
  • Protein Isoforms / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, Notch
  • Retina / cytology
  • Retina / embryology
  • Retina / physiology*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Tubulin / metabolism


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Juvenile Hormones
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Receptors, Notch
  • Tubulin
  • numb protein, Drosophila