Asymmetric cell division (ACD) is the fundamental mechanism underlying the generation of cellular diversity in invertebrates and vertebrates. During Drosophila neuroblast division, this process involves stabilization of the apical complex and interaction between the Inscuteable (Insc) and Partner of inscuteable (Pins) proteins. Both cell-intrinsic factors and cell–cell interactions seem to contribute to cell fate decisions in the retina. The Pins protein is known to play a major role in the asymmetric segregation of cell fate determinants during development of the central nervous system in general, but its role in asymmetric cell divisions and retinoblast cell fate has never been explored. The primary aim of this study was to determine the spatial distribution and time course of mouse homolog of Drosophila Partner of Inscuteable (mPins) expression in the developing and adult mouse eye.
The expression pattern of mPins was studied in the mouse eye from embryonic (E) stage E11.5 until adulthood, by semiquantitative RT–PCR, in situ hybridization, and immunohistochemistry. In addition, variations in mRNA and protein levels for mPins were analyzed in the developing postnatal and adult lens, by semiquantitative RT–PCR, western blot analysis, in situ hybridization, and immunohistochemistry.
We detected mPins mRNA at early stages of mouse embryonic eye development, particularly in the neuroblastic layer. In early postnatal development, mPins mRNA was still detected in the neuroblastic layer, but also began to be detectable in the ganglion cell layer. Thereafter, mPins mRNA was found throughout the retina. This pattern was maintained in differentiated adult retina. Immunohistochemical studies showed that mPins protein was present in the neuroblastic layer and the ganglion cell layer during the early stages of postnatal retinal development. At these stages, mPins protein was colocalized with Numb protein, a marker of the ACD. At later postnatal stages, mPins protein was present in all retinal nuclear layers and in the inner plexiform layer. It continued to be detected in these layers in the differentiated retina; the outer plexiform layer and the photoreceptor inner segments also began to display positive immunostaining for mPins. In the adult retina, mPins was also detected in the retinal pigment epithelium and choroidal melanocytes. Throughout development, mPins protein was detected in nonretinal tissues, including the cornea, ciliary body, and lens. We focused our attention on lens development and showed that mPins protein was first detected at E14.5. The most striking results obtained concerned the lens, in which mPins protein distribution switched from the anterior to the posterior region of the lens during embryonic development. Interestingly, in the postnatal and adult lens, mPins protein was detected in all lens cells and fibers.
We provide the first demonstration that mPins protein is expressed from embryonic stages until adulthood in the mouse eye. These results suggest that mPins plays important roles in eye development. This work provides preliminary evidence strongly supporting a role for mPins in the asymmetric division of retinoblasts, and in the structure and functions of adult mouse retina. However, the link between the presence of mPins in different ocular compartments and the possible occurrence of asymmetric cell divisions in these compartments remains to be clarified. Further studies are required to elucidate the in vitro and in vivo functions of mPins in the developing and adult human eye.