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J Neurophysiol. 2011 Jun;105(6):3002-9. doi: 10.1152/jn.00704.2010. Epub 2011 Mar 9.

Developmental time course distinguishes changes in spontaneous and light-evoked retinal ganglion cell activity in rd1 and rd10 mice.

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Department of Pediatrics (Neurology), The University of Iowa and The Carver College of Medicine, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA.


In a subset of hereditary retinal diseases, early photoreceptor degeneration causes rapidly progressive blindness in children. To better understand how retinal development may interact with degenerative processes, we compared spontaneous and light-evoked activity among retinal ganglion cells in rd1 and rd10 mice, strains with closely related retinal disease. In each, a mutation in the Pde6b gene causes photoreceptor dysfunction and death, but in rd10 mice degeneration starts after a peak in developmental plasticity of retinal circuitry and thereafter progresses more slowly. In vitro multielectrode action potential recordings revealed that spontaneous waves of correlated ganglion cell activity comparable to those in wild-type mice were present in rd1 and rd10 retinas before eye opening [postnatal day (P) 7 to P8]. In both strains, spontaneous firing rates increased by P14-P15 and were many times higher by 4-6 wk of age. Among rd1 ganglion cells, all responses to light had disappeared by ~P28, yet in rd10 retinas vigorous ON and OFF responses were maintained well beyond this age and were not completely lost until after P60. This difference in developmental time course separates mechanisms underlying the hyperactivity from those that alter light-driven responses in rd10 retinas. Moreover, several broad physiological groups of cells remained identifiable according to response polarity and time course as late as P60. This raises hope that visual function might be preserved or restored despite ganglion cell hyperactivity seen in inherited retinal degenerations, particularly if treatment or manipulation of early developmental plasticity were to be timed appropriately.

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