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J Comp Neurol. 2000 Jun 19;422(1):140-57.

Development of inhibitory circuitry in visual and auditory cortex of postnatal ferrets: immunocytochemical localization of calbindin- and parvalbumin-containing neurons.

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Department of Biology, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia 30302, USA.


The inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is thought to play an important role in activity-dependent stages of brain development. Previous studies have shown that different functional subclasses of cortical GABA-containing neurons can be distinguished by antibodies to the calcium-binding proteins parvalbumin and calbindin. Thus insight into the development of distinct subsets of inhibitory cortical circuits can be gained by studying the development of these calcium-binding protein-containing neurons. Previous studies in several mammalian species have suggested that calcium-binding proteins are upregulated in sensory cortex when thalamocortical afferents arrive. In ferrets, the ingrowth of thalamic axons into cortex occurs well into postnatal development, allowing access to early stages of cortical development and calcium-binding protein expression. We find in ferrets that both parvalbumin- and calbindin-immunoreactivity are present in primary visual and primary auditory cortex long before thalamocortical synapse formation, but that there is a sharp decline in immunoreactivity by postnatal day 20. Day 20 in ferrets corresponds to postnatal day 1 in cats, and thus previous studies in postnatal cats would have missed this early pattern of calcium-binding protein distribution. Another surprising finding is that the proportion of parvalbumin- and calbindin-immunoreactive neurons peaks secondarily late in development, between P60 and adulthood. This result suggests that the parvalbumin- and calbindin-containing subclasses of nonpyramidal neurons remain immature until late in the critical period for cortical plasticity, and that they are positioned to play an important role in experience-dependent modification of cortical circuits.

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