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pRB-depleted pluripotent stem cell retinal organoids recapitulate cell state transitions of retinoblastoma development and suggest an important role for pRB in retinal cell differentiation

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Agata Rozanska, Rodrigo Cerna Chavez, Dr Rachel Queen, Dr Joseph Collin, Dr Darin Zerti, Tracey DaveyORCiD, Dr Jonathan Coxhead, Raf Hussain, Professor David SteelORCiD, Professor Lyle Armstrong, Professor Majlinda LakoORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Retinoblastoma (Rb) is a childhood cancer of the developing retina, accounting for up to 17% of all tumours in infancy. To gain insights into the transcriptional events of cell state transitions during Rb development, we established two disease models via retinal organoid differentiation of a pRB (retinoblastoma protein)-depleted human embryonic stem cell line (RB1-null hESCs) and a pRB patient specific induced pluripotent (iPSC) line harbouring a RB1 biallelic mutation (c.2082delC). Both models were characterised by pRB depletion and accumulation of retinal progenitor cells at the expense of amacrine, horizontal and retinal ganglion cells, which suggests an important role for pRB in differentiation of these cell lineages. Importantly, a significant increase in the fraction of proliferating cone precursors (RXRγ+Ki67+) was observed in both pRB depleted organoid models, which were defined as Rb-like clusters by single cell RNA-Seq analysis. The pRB depleted retinal organoids displayed similar features to Rb tumours, including mitochondrial cristae aberrations and rosette-like structures and were able to undergo cell growth in an anchorage-independent manner, indicative of cell transformation in vitro. In both models, the Rb cones expressed retinal ganglion and horizontal cell markers, a novel finding, which could help to better characterise these tumours with possible therapeutic implications. Application of Melphalan, Topotecan and TW-37 led to a significant reduction in the fraction of Rb proliferating cone precursors, validating the suitability of these in vitro models for testing novel therapeutics for Rb.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Rozanska A, Cerna R, Queen R, Collin J, Zerti D, Dorgau B, Beh C, Davey T, Coxhead J, Hussain R, Alaama J, Steel D, Benvenisty N, Armstrong L, Parulekar M, Lako M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Stem Cell Translational Medicine

Year: 2022

Volume: 11

Issue: 4

Pages: 415-433

Online publication date: 23/03/2022

Acceptance date: 19/12/2021

Date deposited: 05/01/2023

ISSN (print): 2157-6564

ISSN (electronic): 2157-6580

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.1093/stcltm/szac008


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Funder referenceFunder name
5095/5096Fight for Sight
MR/S035826/1Medical Research Council (MRC)