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J Neurosci. 2005 Jan 19;25(3):706-10.

Dissociating barrel development and lesion-induced plasticity in the mouse somatosensory cortex.

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Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale U616, Université Paris VI Hôpital Salpêtrière, 75651 Paris cedex 13, France.


In the mouse somatosensory cortex, thalamocortical axons (TCAs) corresponding to individual whiskers cluster into restricted barrel domains during the first days of life. If whiskers are lesioned before that time, the cortical space devoted to the afferents from the damaged whisker shrinks and becomes occupied by thalamocortical afferents from neighboring unlesioned whiskers. This plasticity ends by postnatal day 3 (P3) to P4 when barrels emerge. To test whether TCA development and lesion-induced plasticity are linked, we used monoamine oxidase A knock-out (MAOA-KO) mice in which normal TCA development is halted by an excess of serotonin. Normal TCA development can be restored when serotonin levels are lowered by parachlorophenylalanine (PCPA). By varying the time of PCPA administration, we found that barrel development can be reinitiated until P11, although the emergence of TCA clusters becomes gradually slower and less complete. In mice in which barrels emerge 3 d later than the normal schedule, at P6 instead of P3, we examined lesion-induced plasticity. We find a progressive decline of the lesion-induced plasticity and a closure at P3, similar to normal mice, showing that this plasticity is not influenced by an excess of serotonin levels. Thus, in MAOA-KO mice, the emergence of barrel patterning can be delayed without a concomitant delay in lesion-induced plasticity, and the cortical space devoted to one whisker representation cannot be modified by the periphery once patterning is imprinted in the subcortical relays. We conclude that the closure of the lesion-induced plasticity period in the barrelfield is probably not determined at the cortical level.

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