Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Proliferative reactive gliosis is compatible with glial metabolic support and neuronal function

Félix R Vázquez-Chona1, Alex Swan1, W Drew Ferrell1, Li Jiang1, Wolfgang Baehr1, Wei-Ming Chien2, Matthew Fero2, Robert E Marc1 and Edward M Levine1*

Author affiliations

1 Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, John A. Moran Eye Center, University of Utah, 65 Mario Capecchi Dr., Salt Lake City, UT 84132, USA

2 Clinical Research Division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, 1100 Fairview Avenue North, Seattle, WA 98109, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Neuroscience 2011, 12:98  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-12-98

Published: 10 October 2011



The response of mammalian glial cells to chronic degeneration and trauma is hypothesized to be incompatible with support of neuronal function in the central nervous system (CNS) and retina. To test this hypothesis, we developed an inducible model of proliferative reactive gliosis in the absence of degenerative stimuli by genetically inactivating the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p27Kip1 (p27 or Cdkn1b) in the adult mouse and determined the outcome on retinal structure and function.


p27-deficient Müller glia reentered the cell cycle, underwent aberrant migration, and enhanced their expression of intermediate filament proteins, all of which are characteristics of Müller glia in a reactive state. Surprisingly, neuroglial interactions, retinal electrophysiology, and visual acuity were normal.


The benign outcome of proliferative reactive Müller gliosis suggests that reactive glia display context-dependent, graded and dynamic phenotypes and that reactivity in itself is not necessarily detrimental to neuronal function.

reactive gliosis; retinal degeneration; neuronal degeneration; GFAP; Müller glia; p27Kip1; CDKN1B; intermediate filaments