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Neuroscience. 2003;119(4):1013-22.

Dark-rearing decreases NR2A N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor subunit in all visual cortical layers.

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BRAIN Centre for Neuroscience, Department of Biology, University of Trieste, 34127, Trieste, Italy.


Maturation of the visual cortex is a visual experience-dependent process. It has been shown that visual input triggers changes in N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) subunit expression in the visual cortex. However, no data are available on the layer distribution of these molecular changes. Here we describe the laminar distribution of the cells expressing the NMDAR subunits NR2A and NR2B in the rat primary visual cortex at postnatal day (P) 21 and 37 using anti-NR2A and anti-NR2B antibodies and a stereological method to count labelled neurons. The percentage of neurons expressing the NR2A subunit in the layers II-VI remained unchanged between P21 and P37 with a slight decrease in layer V. Dark-rearing from P21 to P37 induced a pronounced decrease of the staining intensity and a significant decrease in the percentage of NR2A-expressing neurons. The changes in NR2A expression caused by dark rearing occur at similar levels in layers II-VI. The percentage of NR2B-positive cells in the different cortical layers remains unchanged from P21 to P37. The NR2B pattern was not significantly affected by dark-rearing. Thusly, the expression of NR2A depends upon visual experience after P21.

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