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Development. 2003 Feb;130(3):611-22.

Differential effects of cortical neurotrophic factors on development of lateral geniculate nucleus and superior colliculus neurons: anterograde and retrograde actions.

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  • 1AG Entwicklungsneurobiologie ND 6/72, Fakultät für Biologie, Ruhr-Universität, 44780 Bochum, Germany.


Neurotrophins strongly affect visual system development and plasticity. However, the mode of delivery and targets of neurotrophin action are still under debate. For instance, cortical NT-4/5 (neurotrophin 4/5; Ntf4/5) was shown to rescue lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) neurons from monocular deprivation-induced atrophy suggesting a retrograde action on thalamic afferents. It is still unclear whether LGN neurons respond to NT-4/5 and other neurotrophins during development in animals with normal vision. We now show that infusions of NT-4/5 and NGF (nerve growth factor) into visual cortex at the onset and the peak of the critical period accelerated LGN neuron growth. BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) was ineffective. The effects of neurotrophin on LGN development were clearly dissociated from the effects at cortical level because soma growth of cortical layer IV and VI neurons was strongly promoted by BDNF. NT-4/5 was only effective at the onset, but no longer at the peak of the critical period suggesting a switch in neurotrophin dependency for these cortical cell classes. To dissociate retrograde and anterograde effects of the TrkB ligands, we analyzed the stratum griseum superficiale (SGS) of the superior colliculus, a target of visual cortical efferents. Indeed, TrkB-expressing inhibitory SGS neurons responded to cortical NT-4/5 infusion with somatic growth. Strikingly, the TrkB-expressing excitatory tectothalamic calbindin neurons in the SGS did not respond. This demonstrated for the first time a selective cell type-specific anterograde action of NT-4/5 and suggested for the LGN that anterograde as well as retrograde effects contribute to soma size regulation. Strikingly, cortical infusion of the cytokine LIF, which affects development of visual cortex neurochemical architecture, transiently inhibited growth of neurons in LGN, cortical layer IV and VI and SGS. In summary, the study presents three important results. First, central neurons regulate soma size development in an age-and ligand-specific fashion. Second, NT-4/5 and NGF accelerate LGN development in rats with normal vision while LIF delays growth. Third, anterogradely transported NT-4/5 effectively promotes neuronal maturation. These differential actions on subcortical neurons may contribute to the different effects of neurotrophins on visual system development and plasticity.

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