Retinal vascular development is a complex process that is not yet fully understood. The majority of research in this area has focused on astrocytes and the template they form in the inner retina, which precedes endothelial cells in the mouse retina. In humans and dogs, however, astrocyte migration follows behind development of blood vessels, suggesting that other cell types may guide this process. One such cell type is the ganglion cell, which differentiates before blood vessel formation and lies adjacent to the primary retinal vascular plexus. The present study investigated the potential role played by ganglion cells in vascular development using Math5(-/-) mice. It has previously been reported that Math5 regulates the differentiation of ganglion cells and Math5(-/-) mice have a 95% reduction in these cells. The development of blood vessels and glia was investigated using Griffonia simplicifolia isolectin B4 labeling and GFAP immunohistochemistry, respectively. JB-4 analysis demonstrated that the hyaloid vessels arose from choriovitreal vessels adjacent to the optic nerve area. As previously reported, Math5(-/-) mice had a rudimentary optic nerve. The primary retinal vessels did not develop post-natally in the Math5(-/-) mice, however, branches of the hyaloid vasculature eventually dove into the retina and formed the inner retinal capillary networks. An astrocyte template only formed in some areas of the Math5(-/-) retina. In addition, GFAP(+) Müller cells were seen throughout the retina that had long processes wrapped around the hyaloid vessels. Transmission electron microscopy confirmed Müller cell abnormalities and revealed disruptions in the inner limiting membrane. The present data demonstrates that the loss of ganglion cells in the Math5(-/-) mice is associated with a lack of retinal vascular development.
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