A large scale screen for neural stem cell markers in Xenopus retina


Neural stem cell research suffers from a lack of molecular markers to specifically assess stem or progenitor cell properties. The organization of the Xenopus ciliary marginal zone (CMZ) in the retina allows the spatial distinction of these two cell types: stem cells are confined to the most peripheral region, while progenitors are more central. Despite this clear advantage, very few genes specifically expressed in retinal stem cells have been discovered so far in this model. To gain insight into the molecular signature of these cells, we performed a large-scale expression screen in the Xenopus CMZ, establishing it as a model system for stem cell gene profiling. Eighteen genes expressed specifically in the CMZ stem cell compartment were retrieved and are discussed here. These encode various types of proteins, including factors associated with proliferation, mitotic spindle organization, DNA/RNA processing, and cell adhesion. In addition, the publication of this work in a special issue on Xenopus prompted us to give a more general illustration of the value of large-scale screens in this model species. Thus, beyond neural stem cell specific genes, we give a broader highlight of our screen outcome, describing in particular other retinal cell markers that we found. Finally, we present how these can all be easily retrieved through a novel module we developed in the web-based annotation tool XenMARK, and illustrate the potential of this powerful searchable database in the context of the retina.

Journal details

Volume 72
Issue number 4
Pages 491-506
Publication date


Crick labs/facilities