Lens-regulated retinoic acid signalling controls expansion of the developing eye

Jonathan N Smith, Heather M Walker, Hannah Thompson, J. Martin Collinson, Neil Vargesson, Lynda Erskine* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)


Absence of the developing lens results in severe eye defects, including substantial reductions in eye size. How the lens controls eye expansion and the underlying signalling pathways are very poorly defined. We identified RDH10, a gene crucial for retinoic acid synthesis during embryogenesis, as a key factor downregulated in the peripheral retina (presumptive ciliary body region) of lens-removed embryonic chicken eyes prior to overt reductions in eye size. This is associated with a significant decrease in retinoic acid synthesis by lens-removed eyes. Restoring retinoic acid signalling in lens-removed eyes by implanting beads soaked in retinoic acid or retinal, but not vitamin A, rescued eye size. Conversely, blocking retinoic acid synthesis decreased eye size in lens-containing eyes. Production of collagen II and collagen IX, which are major vitreal proteins, is also regulated by the lens and retinoic acid signalling. These data mechanistically link the known roles of both the lens and retinoic acid in normal eye development, and support a model whereby retinoic acid production by the peripheral retina acts downstream of the lens to support vitreous production and eye expansion.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberdev167171
Number of pages13
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - 10 Oct 2018

Bibliographical note

This research was funded by a Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council (BBSRC) PhD studentship to H.M.W., a University of Aberdeen
Institute of Medical Sciences PhD Studentship to J.N.S., and a grant from the University of Aberdeen Development Trust [OL 989 to L.E., J.M.C].


  • ciliary body
  • vitreous
  • collagen II
  • collagen IX
  • RDH10
  • Vitamin A


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