Differentiation of the mammalian retinal pigment epithelium in vitro: Influence of presumptive retinal neuroepithelium and head mesenchyme
Abstract The ancestor cells of the pigment epithelium of the mammalian eye are derived from the neuroepithelial cells of the neural plate. They are neurally determined in the process of neurulation but finally decide to follow the pigment cell lineage, whereas the adjacent tissue develops into the neuroretina and the optic stalk. This decision is most probably made in the developmental stage of eye cup formation. The pigment epithelium becomes restricted to the outer leaf of the eye cup and does not encroach on the adjacent neuroepithelial tissues of the internal leaf and the eye stalk. It is therefore supposed to be channelled by a locally confined determinant factor that has not yet been identified. In the present study, development of the mammalian eye and the neural versus pigment cell decision were investigated in mouse embryos. Three approaches were used to discover the source of the putative determinant involved in the process of neuroepithelial decision. First, eye primordia were cultured from stage 11 embryos (0 somites, early neural plate stage, embryonic day 7 1/2–8) to stage 16 embryos (34 somites, neural tube stage, ed 10); this is prior to pigment cell induction. The eye primordia were first cultured in head segments and their natural position. In these experiments, 50% of the ocular neuroepithelia developed along the nerve cell and glial cell lineage. However, the other 50% of the cultured specimens partly developed into pigment epithelia. In these specimens the determinant factors had obviously remained functionally intact in vitro. In the second type of experiment, the eye primordia were also cultured within the head segments, but with the prospective neuroretina selectively removed. This experiment should show whether the inner layer of the eye cup (the prospective neuroretina) is involved in the neuroepithelial lineage decision. In these experiments 90% of the cultured eye primordia failed to develop pigmented cells. The prospective neuroretina was therefore considered as a candidate for the production of an inductive factor. Finally, eye primordia from stage 14–15 embryos (13–29 somites, ed 9–9 1/2) were either transplanted into heterotopic tissues, such as mesenchymal organs, neuroepithelium or heterochronic muscle, or grown as controls in their natural position and tissue environment. In these conditions both transplanted eye primordia and controls bore pigmented epithelium. Hence, the lineage decision, whether to form neural or pigment cell, remained undisturbed in all epitopes tested. On the basis of these experiments, it seemed unlikely that the development of pigment cells was initiated by a mesenchyme-derived factor exclusively produced near the eye vesicle.
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