The genetic sequence of retinal development in the ciliary margin of the Xenopus eye

Dev Biol. 1998 Jul 15;199(2):185-200. doi: 10.1006/dbio.1998.8939.


The ciliary marginal zone is a perpetually self-renewing proliferative neuroepithelium at the perimeter of the retina in amphibians and fish. In the ciliary marginal zone (CMZ), cells are spatially ordered with respect to cellular development, deep stem cells being most peripheral and differentiating retinal progenitors being most central. This spatial gradient in the CMZ recapitulates embryonic retinogenesis and provides a powerful system to examine the relative order of gene expression during this process. A number of neurogenic and proneural genes have been described to have interacting roles in the development of the vertebrate nervous system, and so it is of major importance to put these genes in a hierarchical pathway. In no other system yet described are the developmental stages of neurogenesis arrayed so clearly in a spatial pattern as in the CMZ. We have therefore taken advantage of this system, using double in situ hybridizations on cross sections of the CMZ, to compare the spatial patterns of 15 proneural, neurogenic, and other genes involved in early and late phases of retinal development. In addition, we have positioned these expression patterns with respect to cell division. What emerges from this work is a spatial ordering of gene expression that predicts a genetic hierarchy governing vertebrate retinogenesis. By injecting messenger RNA for some of these genes into blastomeres of the Xenopus embryo and examining the effects on expression of the putative downstream genes, we have been able to corroborate some of the relationships between genes predicted to act sequentially.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ciliary Body / cytology
  • Ciliary Body / embryology*
  • Ciliary Body / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Mitosis / genetics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Receptor, Notch1
  • Receptors, Cell Surface*
  • Retina / cytology
  • Retina / embryology*
  • Retina / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Xenopus / embryology*
  • Xenopus / genetics*
  • Xenopus / metabolism


  • Membrane Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Receptor, Notch1
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Transcription Factors