- •Retinal injury activates Wnt signaling in MGs
- •Wnt-Lin28-let-7 miRNA signaling regulates MG proliferation
- •Gene transfer of β-catenin or Lin28 stimulates MG proliferation without injury
- •Cell-cycle-reactivated MGs show neurogenic potential
In cold-blooded vertebrates such as zebrafish, Müller glial cells (MGs) readily proliferate to replenish lost retinal neurons. In mammals, however, MGs lack regenerative capability as they do not spontaneously re-enter the cell cycle unless the retina is injured. Here, we show that gene transfer of β-catenin in adult mouse retinas activates Wnt signaling and MG proliferation without retinal injury. Upstream of Wnt, deletion of GSK3β stabilizes β-catenin and activates MG proliferation. Downstream of Wnt, β-catenin binds to the Lin28 promoter and activates transcription. Deletion of Lin28 abolishes β-catenin-mediated effects on MG proliferation, and Lin28 gene transfer stimulates MG proliferation. We further demonstrate that let-7 miRNAs are critically involved in Wnt/Lin28-regulated MG proliferation. Intriguingly, a subset of cell-cycle-reactivated MGs express markers for amacrine cells. Together, these results reveal a key role of Wnt-Lin28-let7 miRNA signaling in regulating proliferation and neurogenic potential of MGs in the adult mammalian retina.