The Notch gene plays a role in the development of disparate tissues in multiple organisms. Because the vertebrate eye is an excellent model system for both patterning and cell fate determination, two processes that can involve Notch, we examined the expression patterns of Notch 1 and Notch 2, and their ligands Delta and Jagged, in the developing rat eye. Notch 1 and Delta were found to be expressed in the neural retina during the period of cell fate determination and differentiation. Notch 2 was found to be expressed in the non-neuronal derivatives of the optic cup, including the pigment epithelium, optic stalk, and ciliary body. Jagged was expressed in distinct regions within the optic vesicle, ciliary body, and lens, with patterns that changed over time. The potential function of Notch 1 in cell-type specification and differentiation was examined by introducing a constitutively active form of Notch 1 in vivo using a replication-incompetent retrovirus. This form of Notch 1 was found to cause abnormal growth and interfere with the differentiation of multiple retinal cell types.
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