April 15, 2021

Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 regulates the genesis of the rare displaced ganglion cell retinal subtype

Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 (GSK) proteins (GSK3 and GSK3{beta}) are key mediators of signaling pathways, with crucial roles in coordinating fundamental biological processes during neural development. Here we show that the complete loss of GSK3 signaling in mouse retinal progenitors leads to microphthalmia with broad morphological defects. Both proliferation of retinal progenitors and neuronal differentiation are impaired and result in enhanced cell death. A single wild-type allele of either GSK3 or GSK3{beta} is able to rescue these phenotypes. In this genetic context, all cell types are present with a functional retina. However, we unexpectedly detect a large number of cells in the inner nuclear layer expressing retinal ganglion cell (RGC)-specific markers (called displaced RGCs, dRGCs) when at least one allele of Gsk3 is expressed. Excess dRGCs lead to increased number of axons projecting into the ipsilateral medial terminal nucleus, an area of the brain belonging to the non-image-forming visual circuit and poorly targeted by RGCs in wild-type retina. Transcriptome analysis and optomotor response assay suggest that at least a subset of dRGCs in Gsk3 mutant mice are direction-selective RGCs. Our study thus uncovers a unique role of GSK3 in controlling the genesis of dRGCs, a rare and poorly characterized retinal cell type.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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