Stratification of on and off ganglion cell dendrites depends on glutamate-mediated afferent activity in the developing retina

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FUNDAMENTAL attribute of the vertebrate visual system is the segregation of ON and OFF pathways signalling increments and decrements of light 1-4. In the mature retina, dendrites of ON- and OFF-centre retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) stratify in different sublaminae of the inner plexiform layer (IPL), and are differentially innervated by two types of bipolar cells which depolarize and hyperpolarize on exposure to light5-10. This stratification of ON and OFF RGCs is achieved by the gradual restriction of their dendrites which ramify throughout the IPL early in development 11-14. The factors underlying this regressive event are unknown. Dendritic stratification occurs around the time that bipolar cells form synapses in the IPL15,16, which raises the possibility that synaptic activity is involved in this process. Here we test this hypothesis by treating the developing cat retina with the glutamate analogue 2-amino-4-phosphonobutyric acid (APR), which hyper-polarizes ON cone bipolar and rod bipolar cells, thereby preventing their release of glutamate17-19. We report that intraocular injection of APB during the period when dendritic stratification normally occurs prevents the formation of structurally segregated ON and OFF retinal pathways. These results provide evidence that glutamate-mediated afferent activity regulates the remodelling of RGC dendrites during development. © 1993 Nature Publishing Group.

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