The newt is an amazing four-limbed vertebrate that can regenerate various body parts including the retina. In this animal, when the neural retina (NR) is removed from the eye by surgery (retinectomy), both the NR and the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) eventually regenerate through the process of reprogramming and proliferation of RPE cells. Thus far, we have pursued the onset mechanism of adult newt retinal regeneration. In this study, using an in vitro system, we found that both mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK)/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) kinase (MEK)-ERK and β-catenin were involved in cell cycle re-entry of RPE cells. MEK-ERK signaling activity in RPE cells was strengthened by retinectomy, and nuclear translocation of β-catenin in RPE cells was induced by attenuation of cell–cell contact, which was promoted by incision of the RPE or its treatment with ethylene glycol tetraacetic acid (EGTA). EGTA is a Ca2+
chelator that disrupts cadherin-mediated cell–cell adhesion. Reinforcement of MEK-ERK signaling activity was a prerequisite for nuclear translocation of β-catenin. These results suggest that retinectomy followed by attenuation of cell–cell contact may trigger cell cycle re-entry of RPE cells. This study, together with our previous findings concerning the proliferation and multipotency of adult newt RPE cells, provides insight into the mechanism of the multi-step trigger in which the onset of retinal regeneration in the adult newt is rigorously controlled.
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