Müller glia (MG) are the only glial cell type produced by the neuroepithelial progenitor cells that generate the vertebrate retina. MG are required to maintain retinal homeostasis and support the survival of retinal neurons. Furthermore, in certain vertebrate classes, MG function as adult stem cells, mediating retinal regeneration in response to injury. However, the mechanisms that regulate MG development are poorly understood because there is considerable overlap in gene expression between retinal progenitor cells and differentiated MG. We show that the LIM homeodomain transcription factor Lhx2 is required for the development of MG in the mouse retina. Temporally controlled knock-out studies reveal a requirement for Lhx2 during all stages of MG development, ranging from the proliferation of gliocompetent retinal progenitors, activation of Müller-specific gene expression, and terminal differentiation of MG morphological features. We show that Lhx2 regulates gliogenesis in part by regulating directly the expression of Notch pathway genes including Notch1, Dll1, and Dll3 and gliogenic transcription factors such asHes1, Hes5, Sox8, and Rax. Conditional knock-out of Lhx2 resulted in a rapid downregulation of Notch pathway genes and loss of Notch signaling. We further demonstrate that Müller gliogenesis induced by misexpression of the potently gliogenic Notch pathway transcriptional effector Hes5 requires Lhx2 expression. These results indicate that Lhx2 not only directly regulates expression of Notch signaling pathway components, but also acts together with the gliogenic Notch pathway to drive MG specification and differentiation.
- Müller glia