In vitro differentiation of mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs) into retinal fates can be used to study the roles of exogenous factors acting through multiple signaling pathways during retina development. Application of activin A during a specific time frame that corresponds to early embryonic retinogenesis caused increased generation of CRX+ photoreceptor precursors and decreased PAX6+ retinal progenitor cells (RPCs). Following activin A treatment, SMAD2/3 was activated in RPCs and bound to promoter regions of key RPC and photoreceptor genes. The effect of activin on CRX expression was repressed by pharmacological inhibition of SMAD2/3 phosphorylation. Activin signaling through SMAD2/3 in RPCs regulates expression of transcription factors involved in cell type determination and promotes photoreceptor lineage specification. Our findings can contribute to the production of photoreceptors for cell replacement therapy.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Developmental Biology
- Cell Biology