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Müller glia provide tensile strength to the developing retina

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MacDonald, Ryan 
Randlett, Owen 
Oswald, Julia 
Yoshimatsu, Takeshi 


To investigate the cellular basis of tissue integrity in a vertebrate CNS tissue, we eliminated Müller glial cells (MG) from the zebrafish retina. For well over a century glial cells have been ascribed a mechanical role in the support of neural tissues, yet this idea has not been specifically tested in vivo. We report here that retinas devoid of MG rip apart – a defect known as retinoschisis. Using atomic force microscopy, we show that retinas without MG have decreased resistance to tensile stress and are softer than controls. Laser ablation of MG processes showed that these cells are under tension in the tissue. Thus, we propose that MG act like springs that hold the neural retina together, finally confirming an active mechanical role of glial cells in the CNS.



Müller cells, AFM, atomic force microscopy, retinoschisis, Notch

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Journal of Cell Biology

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Rockefeller University Press
MRC (G1100312)
Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) (RGY0074/2013)
Wellcome Trust (100329/Z/12/Z)
This work was funded by a Herchel Smith Postdoctoral Fellowship to R.B.M., the Wellcome Trust programme in Developmental Biology to O.R. and J.O., NIH grants EY14358 (R.O.W.) and EY01730 (Vision Core), MRC Career Development Award and HFSP Young Investigator Grant to K.F., and a Wellcome Trust Investigator Award to W.A.H.