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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 May 15;109(20):7882-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1203138109. Epub 2012 Apr 27.

Transcription factor Olig2 defines subpopulations of retinal progenitor cells biased toward specific cell fates.

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  • 1Department of Genetics, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Previous lineage analyses have shown that retinal progenitor cells (RPCs) are multipotent throughout development, and expression-profiling studies have shown a great deal of molecular heterogeneity among RPCs. To determine if the molecular heterogeneity predicts that an RPC will produce particular types of progeny, clonal lineage analysis was used to investigate the progeny of a subset of RPCs, those that express the basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor, Olig2. The embryonic Olig2(+) RPCs underwent terminal divisions, producing small clones with primarily two of the five cell types being made by the pool of RPCs at that time. The later, postnatal Olig2(+) RPCs also made terminal divisions, which were biased toward production of rod photoreceptors and amacrine cell interneurons. These data indicate that the multipotent progenitor pool is made up of distinctive types of RPCs, which have biases toward producing subsets of retinal neurons in a terminal division, with the types of neurons produced varying over time. This strategy is similar to that of the developing Drosophila melanogaster ventral nerve cord, with the Olig2(+) cells behaving as ganglion mother cells.

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