During development of the vertebrate eye, complex patterning events occur which result in the generation of distinct tissue components. Multiple congenital eye disorders, including anophthalmia or micropthalmia, aniridia, coloboma and retinal dysplasia, stem from disruptions in early eye development. Thus, it is critical to define the mechanisms that lead to the patterning and differentiation of ocular tissues, in particular the retina and retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). The molecular signals that mediate patterning events are, for the most part, unknown. Members of the wnt family of ligands are important regulators of cellular proliferation, cell fate decisions and tissue polarity in multiple tissues. Wnts act by binding to members of the Frizzled family of transmembrane receptors. However, the role of Wnt/Frizzled signaling in vertebrate eye development has not been examined, despite the fact that multiple Wnts and Frizzleds are expressed at various stages of eye development. We provide evidence that Wnt/beta-catenin signaling is active in the optic vesicle and hypothesize that it regulates retinal progenitor proliferation and RPE development. To test this we propose experiments in mouse, chick and Xenopus, since each model system offers unique experimental advantages. We will use a reporter of Wnt/beta catenin signaling in transgenic Xenopus and mouse embryos to define when and where during eye development this signaling pathway is active (Aim 1). We will then test whether Wnt/beta-catenin signaling regulates progenitor proliferation and RPE development by perturbing this signaling pathway at various stages of eye development in both chick and Xenopus (Aims 2). Finally, we will determine whether these effects are mediated by the Frizzled-5 receptor, which is selectively expressed in the developing optic vesicle (Aim 3). Together, these experiments will advance our understanding of the signals that pattern the eye during development and may provide clues about how these patterning events are disrupted in congenital eye disorders. In addition, these studies should provide more general insight into the role of Wnt/beta-catenin signaling during nervous system development. ? ?

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Eye Institute (NEI)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-VISC (01))
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Mariani, Andrew P
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University of Utah
Schools of Medicine
Salt Lake City
United States
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