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J Comp Neurol. 1999 Aug 23;411(2):327-45.

Pattern formation by retinal afferents in the ferret lateral geniculate nucleus: developmental segregation and the role of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors.

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Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.

Erratum in

  • J Comp Neurol 1999 Oct 4;412(4):705-7.


The projection from the retina to the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) in ferrets segregates during development into eye-specific layers and ON/OFF sublayers. The projection pattern and the morphology of single axons was examined at several postnatal ages. The axons progress from a simple, sparsely branched morphology at birth to crude arbors at postnatal day 7 (P7). At P14-P15, axons have terminal arbors that span one eye-specific layer. By P19-P21, retinal afferents in the A layers have segregated into inner and outer sublaminae that correspond to ON- and OFF-center cells. Sublaminae form mainly by directed growth of terminal arbors in appropriately positioned regions of the LGN, along with elimination of extraneous branches in inappropriate regions. From P28 to P35, the LGN assumes an adult-like shape, and retinogeniculate axons form terminal boutons on branch endings. During the period between P14 and P21, when retinogeniculate axons segregate into ON/OFF sublaminae, N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors were blocked with chronic infusion of specific antagonists into the LGN. NMDA receptor blockade prevents the retinal afferent segregation into ON/OFF sublaminae. Some individual retinogeniculate axons have arbors that are not restricted appropriately, and most are restricted in size but are located inappropriately within the eye-specific laminae. Thus, NMDA receptor blockade prevents the positioning of retinogeniculate arbors that lead to the formation of ON/OFF sublaminae in the LGN. These results indicate that the activity of postsynaptic cells, and the activation of NMDA receptors in particular, can influence significantly the patterning of inputs and the structure of presynaptic afferents during development.

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