Neural stem cell properties of Müller glia in the mammalian retina: Regulation by Notch and Wnt signaling

Ani V. Das, Kavita B. Mallya, Xing Zhao, Faraz Ahmad, Sumitra Bhattacharya, Wallace B. Thoreson, Ganapati V. Hegde, Iqbal Ahmad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

272 Scopus citations


The retina in adult mammals, unlike those in lower vertebrates such as fish and amphibians, is not known to support neurogenesis. However, when injured, the adult mammalian retina displays neurogenic changes, raising the possibility that neurogenic potential may be evolutionarily conserved and could be exploited for regenerative therapy. Here, we show that Müller cells, when retrospectively enriched from the normal retina, like their radial glial counterparts in the central nervous system (CNS), display cardinal features of neural stem cells (NSCs), i.e., they self-renew and generate all three basic cell types of the CNS. In addition, they possess the potential to generate retinal neurons, both in vitro and in vivo. We also provide direct evidence, by transplanting prospectively enriched injury-activated Müller cells into normal eye, that Müller cells have neurogenic potential and can generate retinal neurons, confirming a hypothesis, first proposed in lower vertebrates. This potential is likely due to the NSC nature of Müller cells that remains dormant under the constraint of non-neurogenic environment of the adult normal retina. Additionally, we demonstrate that the mechanism of activating the dormant stem cell properties in Müller cells involves Wnt and Notch pathways. Together, these results identify Müller cells as latent NSCs in the mammalian retina and hence, may serve as a potential target for cellular manipulation for treating retinal degeneration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)283-302
Number of pages20
JournalDevelopmental Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 1 2006


  • Chemical injury
  • Müller cells
  • Notch signaling
  • Progenitors
  • Retina
  • Stem cells
  • Wnt signaling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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