BACKGROUND: The vertebrate retina comprises sensory neurons, the photoreceptors, as well as many other types of neurons and one type of glial cell. These cells are generated by multipotent and restricted retinal progenitor cells (RPCs), which express Notch1. Loss of Notch1 in RPCs late during retinal development results in the overproduction of rod photoreceptors at the expense of interneurons and glia. RESULTS: To examine the molecular underpinnings of this observation, microarray analysis of single retinal cells from wild-type or Notch1 conditional knockout retinas was performed. In situ hybridization was carried out to validate some of the findings. CONCLUSIONS: The majority of Notch1-mutant cells lost expression of known Notch target genes. These cells also had low levels of RPC and cell cycle genes, and robustly up-regulated rod precursor genes. In addition, single wild-type cells, in which cell cycle marker genes were down-regulated, expressed markers of both rod photoreceptors and interneurons.