Downregulation of the Canonical WNT Signaling Pathway by TGFβ1 Inhibits Photoreceptor Differentiation of Adult Human Müller Glia with Stem Cell Characteristics

Angshumonik Angbohang, Na Wu, Thalis Charalambous, Karen Eastlake, Yuan Lei, Yung Su Kim, Xinghuai H Sun, G Astrid Limb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)
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Müller glia are responsible for the retina regeneration observed in zebrafish. Although the human retina harbors Müller glia with stem cell characteristics, there is no evidence that they regenerate the retina after disease or injury. Transforming growth factor-β (TGFβ) and Wnt signaling regulate retinal neurogenesis and inflammation, but their roles in the neural differentiation of human Müller stem cells (hMSC) are not known. We examined hMSC lines in vitro for the expression of various Wnt signaling components and for their modulation by TGFβ1, as well as the effect of this cytokine on the photoreceptor differentiation of these cells. Culture of hMSC with a combination of factors that induce photoreceptor differentiation of hMSC (FGF2, taurine, retinoic acid, and insulin-like growth factor type1; FTRI), markedly upregulated the expression of components of the canonical Wnt signaling pathway, including WNT2B, DKK1, and active β-CATENIN. Although FTRI did not modify mRNA expression of WNT5B, a component of the noncanonical/planar cell polarity Wnt pathway, it upregulated its secretion. Furthermore, TGFβ1 not only decreased WNT2B expression, but also inhibited FTRI-induced photoreceptor differentiation of hMSC, as determined by expression of the photoreceptor markers NR2E3, RHODOPSIN, and RECOVERIN. Inhibition of TGFβ1 signaling by an ALK5 inhibitor prevented TGFβ1-induced changes in the expression of the two Wnt ligands examined. More importantly, inhibition of the canonical WNT signaling by XAV-939 prevented FTRI-induced photoreceptor differentiation. These observations suggest that TGFβ may play a key role in preventing neural differentiation of hMSC and may constitute a potential target for induction of endogenous regeneration of the human retina.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
Issue number1
Early online date12 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - 28 Dec 2015


  • Adult
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Line
  • Down-Regulation
  • Ependymoglial Cells
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Glycoproteins
  • Humans
  • Neurogenesis
  • Photoreceptor Cells
  • Stem Cells
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta1
  • Wnt Proteins
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway


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