Müller glia: Stem cells for generation and regeneration of retinal neurons in teleost fish

Prog Retin Eye Res. 2014 May:40:94-123. doi: 10.1016/j.preteyeres.2013.12.007. Epub 2014 Jan 8.


Adult zebrafish generate new neurons in the brain and retina throughout life. Growth-related neurogenesis allows a vigorous regenerative response to damage, and fish can regenerate retinal neurons, including photoreceptors, and restore functional vision following photic, chemical, or mechanical destruction of the retina. Müller glial cells in fish function as radial-glial-like neural stem cells. During adult growth, Müller glial nuclei undergo sporadic, asymmetric, self-renewing mitotic divisions in the inner nuclear layer to generate a rod progenitor that migrates along the radial fiber of the Müller glia into the outer nuclear layer, proliferates, and differentiates exclusively into rod photoreceptors. When retinal neurons are destroyed, Müller glia in the immediate vicinity of the damage partially and transiently dedifferentiate, re-express retinal progenitor and stem cell markers, re-enter the cell cycle, undergo interkinetic nuclear migration (characteristic of neuroepithelial cells), and divide once in an asymmetric, self-renewing division to generate a retinal progenitor. This daughter cell proliferates rapidly to form a compact neurogenic cluster surrounding the Müller glia; these multipotent retinal progenitors then migrate along the radial fiber to the appropriate lamina to replace missing retinal neurons. Some aspects of the injury-response in fish Müller glia resemble gliosis as observed in mammals, and mammalian Müller glia exhibit some neurogenic properties, indicative of a latent ability to regenerate retinal neurons. Understanding the specific properties of fish Müller glia that facilitate their robust capacity to generate retinal neurons will inform and inspire new clinical approaches for treating blindness and visual loss with regenerative medicine.

Keywords: Adult neurogenesis; Müller glia; Radial glia; Retinal regeneration; Retinal stem cells.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Ependymoglial Cells / physiology*
  • Retina* / embryology
  • Retina* / growth & development
  • Retina* / injuries
  • Retinal Neurons / physiology*
  • Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology
  • Zebrafish