Both cell-intrinsic and -extrinsic factors regulate the proliferation of progenitor cells during CNS development. There is now growing evidence that in the developing vertebrate retina that a variety of neurotransmitter systems modulate the proliferation of retinal progenitor cells. In general terms, I would like to elucidate the roles of neurotransmitters as regulators of progenitor cell proliferation at early stages of retinal development.
The adult zebrafish retina maintains the ability to mount a robust regenerative response following light-induced photoreceptor cell death. This response is initiated by the Müller glia proliferating in the inner nuclear layer (INL), that give rise to neuronal progenitor cells which continue to divide and migrate to the outer nuclear layer (ONL), whereby they differentiate into rod and cone photoreceptors. The laboratory previously conducted a microarray analysis of retinal gene expression at 16, 31, 51, 68, and 96 h of constant intense-light treatment to identify genes and their corresponding proteins that may be involved in the generation and proliferation of the neuronal progenitor cells. These data suggest that there are large fluctuations in neurotransmitter expression throughout the entire regenerative response. My early research efforts will examine the role of specific subtypes of glycine, GABA, glutamate, and nicotinic acetylcholine receptors involved in the regenerative response following light damage.