Keeping up with retinal photoreceptors and horizontal cells: Labelling and mapping of cells in the normal and diseased embryonic chicken retina

  • Datum: 07 april, kl. 09.15
  • Plats: B21, BMC, Husargatan 3, Uppsala
  • Doktorand: Blixt, Maria
  • Om avhandlingen
  • Arrangör: Medicinsk utvecklingsbiologi
  • Kontaktperson: Blixt, Maria
  • Disputation

The childhood eye cancer retinoblastoma originates from the retina and its development is initiated while the foetus is in the uterus. Retinoblastoma has a reported incidence of 1 in 15-18 000 live births, and approximately 90% of all patients are diagnosed before the age of 5.

The occurrence of retinoblastoma is usually detected by the parents and the most frequent symptoms are leukocoria (white pupillary reflex), strabismus (squinting) or if the child complains of visual problems. Retinoblastoma is diagnosed by examination under anaesthesia and documentation by RetCam. It is treated with various cytostatic agents, or by laser. If the treatment is unsuccessful, or there is a risk that the tumour cells will spread and form metastases, the eye is removed.

Previous studies have indicated that the cell type from which the tumour arises, the cell-of-origin, may be the cone photoreceptors and/or their immediate interneuron, the horizontal cells. Determining the cell-of-origin for retinoblastoma is an important goal, however, understanding the molecular mechanisms that distinguish the photoreceptors and the horizontal cells from the other retinal cells may prove just as important for understanding this disease.

The aim of my project has been to develop, optimise and validate methods to label, map and target expression to photoreceptors and horizontal cells in the chicken embryonic retina. We have successfully established several methods that test the expression pattern of conserved, regulatory DNA sequences, and have performed short- and long-term expression of various genes that have been reported to be involved in cell cycle regulation and cell fate determination. One of my most important findings was that a region from the RXRγ gene allowed us to specifically target the photoreceptors and horizontal cells. Our previous knowledge, together with the newly established tools, puts us an important step closer towards understanding the development and behaviour of the retinal photoreceptors and horizontal cells, however, further studies are of course needed.