Architecture and activity-mediated refinement of axonal projections from a mosaic of genetically identified retinal ganglion cells.

Department of Neurobiology, Fairchild Science Building D235, Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, CA 94305, USA.
Neuron (Impact Factor: 15.77). 09/2008; 59(3):425-38. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2008.07.018
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Our understanding of how mammalian sensory circuits are organized and develop has long been hindered by the lack of genetic markers of neurons with discrete functions. Here, we report a transgenic mouse selectively expressing GFP in a complete mosaic of transient OFF-alpha retinal ganglion cells (tOFF-alphaRGCs). This enabled us to relate the mosaic spacing, dendritic anatomy, and electrophysiology of these RGCs to their complete map of projections in the brain. We find that tOFF-alphaRGCs project exclusively to the superior colliculus (SC) and dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus and are restricted to a specific laminar depth within each of these targets. The axons of tOFF-alphaRGC are also organized into columns in the SC. Both laminar and columnar specificity develop through axon refinement. Disruption of cholinergic retinal waves prevents the emergence of columnar- but not laminar-specific tOFF-alphaRGC connections. Our findings reveal that in a genetically identified sensory map, spontaneous activity promotes synaptic specificity by segregating axons arising from RGCs of the same subtype.

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