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PLoS One. 2007 Apr 4;2(4):e346.

Environmental enrichment effects on development of retinal ganglion cell dendritic stratification require retinal BDNF.

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Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, Italy.


A well-known developmental event of retinal maturation is the progressive segregation of retinal ganglion cell (RGC) dendrites into a and b sublaminae of the inner plexiform layer (IPL), a morphological rearrangement crucial for the emergence of the ON and OFF pathways. The factors regulating this process are not known, although electrical activity has been demonstrated to play a role. Here we report that Environmental Enrichment (EE) accelerates the developmental segregation of RGC dendrites and prevents the effects exerted on it by dark rearing (DR). Development of RGC stratification was analyzed in a line of transgenic mice expressing plasma-membrane marker green fluorescent protein (GFP) under the control of Thy-1 promoter; we visualized the a and b sublaminae of the IPL by using an antibody selectively directed against a specific marker of cholinergic neurons. EE precociously increases Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) in the retina, in parallel with the precocious segregation of RGC dendrites; in addition, EE counteracts retinal BDNF reduction in DR retinas and promotes a normal segregation of RGC dendrites. Blocking retinal BDNF by means of antisense oligos blocks EE effects on the maturation of RGC dendritic stratification. Thus, EE affects the development of RGC dendritic segregation and retinal BDNF is required for this effect to take place, suggesting that BDNF could play an important role in the emergence of the ON and OFF pathways.

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