Retina Development in Vertebrates: Systems Biology Approaches to Understanding Genetic Programs: On the Contribution of Next-Generation Sequencing Methods to the Characterization of the Regulatory Networks Controlling Vertebrate Eye Development

Bioessays. 2020 Apr;42(4):e1900187. doi: 10.1002/bies.201900187. Epub 2020 Jan 29.


The ontogeny of the vertebrate retina has been a topic of interest to developmental biologists and human geneticists for many decades. Understanding the unfolding of the genetic program that transforms a field of progenitors cells into a functionally complex and multi-layered sensory organ is a formidable challenge. Although classical genetic studies succeeded in identifying the key regulators of retina specification, understanding the architecture of their gene network and predicting their behavior are still a distant hope. The emergence of next-generation sequencing platforms revolutionized the field unlocking the access to genome-wide datasets. Emerging techniques such as RNA-seq, ChIP-seq, ATAC-seq, or single cell RNA-seq are used to characterize eye developmental programs. These studies provide valuable information on the transcriptional and cis-regulatory profiles of precursors and differentiated cells, outlining the trajectories that connect each intermediate state. Here, recent systems biology efforts are reviewed to understand the genetic programs shaping the vertebrate retina.

Keywords: cis-regulatory; eye development; gene regulatory networks; retina differentiation; single-cell; transcriptome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't