Subsets of retinal progenitors display temporally regulated and distinct biases in the fates of their progeny

Development. 1997 Mar;124(6):1119-31. doi: 10.1242/dev.124.6.1119.


Cell fate determination in the developing vertebrate retina is characterized by the sequential generation of seven classes of cells by multipotent progenitor cells. Despite this order of genesis, more than one cell type is generated at any time; for example, in the rat, several cell types are born during the prenatal period, while others are born postnatally. In order to examine whether there are classes of progenitor cells with distinct developmental properties contributing to this developmental progression, we examined antigen expression in progenitor cells during rat retinal development. Two markers of amacrine and horizontal cells, the VC1.1 epitope and syntaxin, were found to be expressed on a subset of progenitors in a temporally regulated manner that closely paralleled the birthdays of these cell types. In order to investigate which cell types were produced by the progenitors expressing these markers, fluorescent latex microspheres covalently coupled to VC1.1 antibodies were used to indelibly label VC1.1+ progenitor cells and their progeny. Early in retinal development, VC1.1+ progenitors generated a high percentage of amacrine and horizontal cells, but no cone photoreceptors. During this same period, a comparable number of cone photoreceptors were generated by VC1.1- progenitors. In the late embryonic and early postnatal period, VC1.1+ progenitors continued to generate predominantly amacrine cells, but also gave rise to an increasing number of rod photoreceptors. These findings demonstrate that expression of these two markers by progenitors is highly correlated with a bias towards the production of amacrine and horizontal cells. The fact that subsets of progenitors with temporally regulated and distinct biases are intermingled within the retinal neuroepithelium provides a basis for understanding how different cell types are generated both simultaneously and in a particular order by multipotent progenitors during retinal development.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Animals
  • Antibodies
  • Biomarkers
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Division
  • DNA / biosynthesis
  • Embryonic and Fetal Development
  • Epitopes / analysis
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Membrane Proteins / analysis
  • Membrane Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / analysis
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Qa-SNARE Proteins
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Retina / cytology
  • Retina / embryology*
  • Retina / growth & development*
  • Retinal Cone Photoreceptor Cells / cytology
  • Retinal Cone Photoreceptor Cells / embryology
  • Retinal Cone Photoreceptor Cells / growth & development
  • Retinal Rod Photoreceptor Cells / cytology
  • Retinal Rod Photoreceptor Cells / embryology
  • Retinal Rod Photoreceptor Cells / growth & development
  • Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Stem Cells / physiology


  • Antibodies
  • Biomarkers
  • Epitopes
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Qa-SNARE Proteins
  • DNA