Developmental Expression of the Cell Cycle Regulator p16INK4a in Retinal Glial Cells: A Novel Marker for Immature Ocular Astrocytes?
Martinez-Fernandez de la Camara C., Storm T., Salman A., Burgoyne T., Rasmussen MQ., Orlans HO., Russell AJ., Davies SG., Barnard AR., MacLaren RE.
Retinal astrocytes are vital for neuronal homeostasis in the retina. Together with Müller glia, they provide retinal cells with neurotrophic factors, antioxidative support, and defense mechanisms such as the formation of the blood-retinal barrier. Substantial heterogeneity of astrocyte morphology and function represents a challenge for identification of distinct subtypes which may be potential targets for therapeutic purposes. Hence, identification of novel markers of astrocyte subpopulations is highly relevant to better understand the molecular mechanisms involved in retinal development, homeostasis, and pathology. In this study, we observed that the cell cycle regulator, p16INK4a, is expressed in immature astrocytes in the mouse retina. Immunohistochemical analysis showed p16INK4a expression in the optic nerve of wild-type mice from 3 days to 3 months of age and in the nerve fiber layer of the adult mouse retina. Colocalization of p16INK4a expression and glial fibrillary acidic protein (immature/mature astrocyte marker) tends to decrease with age. However, colocalization of p16INK4a expression and vimentin (immature astrocyte marker) remains high in the optic nerve from the early postnatal period to adulthood. The observations from this study provide a valuable tool for further investigations of ocular astrocytes in the developing retina as well as in degenerative retinopathies.