Binocular interaction in the fetal cat regulates the size of the ganglion cell population

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Journal Article

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During fetal development of the cat's visual system there is a marked overproliferation of optic nerve axons.21,45In utero binocular interaction contributes to the severity of fiber loss since removal of an eye during gestation attenuates axon loss in the remaining optic nerve.44 The purpose of the present study was to determine whether this reduced loss of optic nerve fibers is due to a failure of retraction by supernumerary axon branches or to a reduction in ganglion cell death. To resolve this issue, we compared the number of ganglion cells and optic nerve fibers in adult cats which had one eye removed at known gestational ages. Retinal ganglion cells were backfilled with horseradish peroxidase and counts were made from retinal wholemounts. The axon complement was assessed with an electron microscopic assay. In the retinas of a normal cat we estimated 151,000 and 152,000 ganglion cells. The optic nerves of two other normal cats contained approximately 158,000 and 159,000 axons.44 In comparison, an animal enucleated on embryonic day 42 had 180,000 ganglion cells and 178,000 optic nerve fibers, while in an animal enucleated on embryonic day 51 the corresponding estimates were 182,000 and 190,000. The close agreement between cell and fiber counts indicates that axonal bifurcation does not contribute appreciably to the axon surplus in the optic nerve of prenatally enucleated cats. These results demonstrate that prenatal binocular interaction regulates the size of the mature retinal ganglion cell population. © 1984.

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