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J Neurosci. 2012 Jul 25;32(30):10306-17. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1581-12.2012.

Diverse strategies engaged in establishing stereotypic wiring patterns among neurons sharing a common input at the visual system's first synapse.

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Department of Biological Structure, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA.


Sensory circuits use common strategies, such as convergence and divergence, typically at different synapses, to pool or distribute inputs. Inputs from different presynaptic cell types converge onto a common postsynaptic cell, acting together to shape neuronal output (Klausberger and Somogyi, 2008). Also, individual presynaptic cells contact several postsynaptic cell types, generating divergence of signals. Attaining such complex wiring patterns relies on the orchestration of many events across development, including axonal and dendritic growth and synapse formation and elimination (reviewed by Waites et al., 2005; Sanes and Yamagata, 2009). Recent work has focused on how distinct presynaptic cell types form stereotypic connections with an individual postsynaptic cell (Morgan et al., 2011; Williams et al., 2011), but how a single presynaptic cell type diverges to form distinct wiring patterns with multiple postsynaptic cell types during development remains unexplored. Here we take advantage of the compactness of the visual system's first synapse to observe development of such a circuit in mouse retina. By imaging three types of postsynaptic bipolar cells and their common photoreceptor targets across development, we found that distinct bipolar cell types engage in disparate dendritic growth behaviors, exhibit targeted or exploratory approaches to contact photoreceptors, and adhere differently to the synaptotropic model of establishing synaptic territories. Furthermore each type establishes its final connectivity patterns with the same afferents on separate time scales. We propose that such differences in strategy and timeline could facilitate the division of common inputs among multiple postsynaptic cell types to create parallel circuits with diverse function.

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