Purpose: Zebrafish neurons regenerate from Müller glia following retinal lesions. Genes and signaling pathways important for retinal regeneration in zebrafish have been described, but our understanding of how Müller glial stem cell properties are regulated is incomplete. Mammalian Müller glia possess a latent neurogenic capacity that might be enhanced in regenerative therapies to treat degenerative retinal diseases.
Methods: To identify transcriptional changes associated with stem cell properties in zebrafish Müller glia, we performed a comparative transcriptome analysis from isolated cells at 8 and 16 hours following an acute photic lesion, prior to the asymmetric division that produces retinal progenitors.
Results: We report a rapid, dynamic response of zebrafish Müller glia, characterized by activation of pathways related to stress, nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) signaling, cytokine signaling, immunity, prostaglandin metabolism, circadian rhythm, and pluripotency, and an initial repression of Wnt signaling. When we compared publicly available transcriptomes of isolated mouse Müller glia from two retinal degeneration models, we found that mouse Müller glia showed evidence of oxidative stress, variable responses associated with immune regulation, and repression of pathways associated with pluripotency, development, and proliferation.
Conclusions: Categories of biological processes/pathways activated following photoreceptor loss in regeneration-competent zebrafish Müller glia, which distinguished them from mouse Müller glia in retinal degeneration models, included cytokine signaling (notably NF-κB), prostaglandin E2 synthesis, expression of core clock genes, and pathways/metabolic states associated with pluripotency. These regulatory mechanisms are relatively unexplored as potential mediators of stem cell properties likely to be important in Müller glial cells for successful retinal regeneration.