Developmental expression of the glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) gene in the mouse retina

Cell Mol Neurobiol. 1991 Dec;11(6):623-37. doi: 10.1007/BF00741450.


1. In the nervous system, Glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) is a well-known, cell type-specific marker for astrocytes. 2. In the mammalian retina, Muller cells, the major class of retinal glia, do not express GFAP or contain only low amounts of this protein. In retinas with photoreceptor degeneration, however, high levels of GFAP are found. It is possible that GFAP synthesis in these retinas could result from "dedifferentiation" of Muller cells as a consequence of disruption of normal neuron-glia interactions. 3. We have carried out immunocytochemical and in situ hybridization studies to examine whether GFAP or its mRNA is expressed by retinal cells early in embryonic development. 4. Our results show that GFAP-containing cells, which are probably astrocytes, are found only in the ganglion cell and nerve fiber layers and that these cells appear after postnatal day-1 (P-1) and continue to form until P-10. 5. Astrocyte formation starts from the optic disc and moves toward the periphery of the retina at a rate of approximately 160-200 microns per day. 6. An unexpected result from these studies is that GFAP mRNA levels are high in the first week of birth and decline rapidly as the animal develops. 7. Finally, we did not find either GFAP or GFAP mRNA in retinal cells other than astrocytes during normal development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoradiography
  • Blotting, Northern
  • DNA Probes
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Gene Expression
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / genetics*
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Nerve Fibers / metabolism
  • Nucleic Acid Hybridization
  • RNA / analysis
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism*
  • Retina / embryology
  • Retina / metabolism*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / metabolism


  • DNA Probes
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA