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Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2011 Mar 14;52(3):1439-49. doi: 10.1167/iovs.10-6400. Print 2011 Mar.

Differential expression of neuronal genes in Müller glia in two- and three-dimensional cultures.

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  • 1Department of Basic Sciences, College of Optometry, University of Houston, Houston, Texas 77204-2020, USA.



Müller glia in the mammalian retina have some stem cell-like characteristics, although their capacity for neurogenesis remains limited both in vivo and in vitro. In vitro studies to date have used traditional two-dimensional (2D) cell culture to assess neuronal differentiation of Müller glia. The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of 2D and three-dimensional (3D) environments on Müller glial gene expression after growth factor stimulation.


Conditionally immortalized mouse Müller glia cells (ImM10) were cultured under nonimmortalizing conditions with EGF/FGF2 to generate spheres that were differentiated in vitro on uncoated culture dishes (2D) or encapsulated in self-assembling, RADA-16 peptide hydrogels (3D) under identical media and growth factor supplementation conditions. Gene expression was analyzed using quantitative RT-PCR and immunocytochemistry. Cellular morphology was analyzed with light and confocal microscopy; sphere ultrastructure was analyzed with transmission electron microscopy.


ImM10 Müller cells express numerous genes associated with neural stem cells and retinal progenitors in both normal growth conditions and sphere-forming conditions. When encapsulated in the 3D hydrogel, cells can migrate and send processes into the hydrogel. Many genes associated with neurogenesis, as well as retinal neuron-specific genes, are differentially expressed in 2D and 3D differentiation conditions.


ImM10 Müller glia upregulate genes characteristic of retinal neurons after growth factor stimulation in vitro, and gene expression patterns are altered in 3D hydrogel cultures.

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