BACKGROUND - 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.
RESULTS - 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.
CONCLUSION - 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.