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Vis Neurosci. 1989;2(5):499-514.

Effect of retinal impulse blockage on cytochrome oxidase-rich zones in the macaque striate cortex: II. Quantitative electron-microscopic (EM) analysis of neuropil.

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Department of Anatomy and Cellular Biology, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee 53226.


Unilateral retinal impulse blockage with tetrodotoxin (TTX) induces reversible shrinkage and decreased cytochrome oxidase (CO) activity in alternate rows of supragranular, CO-rich puffs in the adult macaque striate cortex (Wong-Riley & Carroll, 1984b: Carroll & Wong-Riley, 1987). The present study extended the findings to the electron-microscopic (EM) level to determine if various neuropil profiles in control puffs exhibit heterogeneous levels of CO activity, and whether specific processes were more susceptible to intravitreal TTX than others. Within the neuropil of control puffs, 60% of the total mitochondrial population resided in dendrites, and the majority of dendritic mitochondria were highly reactive for CO. Axon terminals forming symmetrical synapses also contained darkly reactive mitochondria, whereas those forming asymmetrical synapses possessed very few and mainly lightly reactive mitochondria. Unmyelinated axon trunks, myelinated axons, and glia all exhibited low levels of CO activity. Synaptic count revealed a 3:1 ratio of asymmetrical to symmetrical synapses. Intravitreal TTX for 2-4 weeks adversely affects dendrites and symmetrical terminals much more so than other neuropil processes. There was a general decrease in darkly and moderately reactive mitochondria and an increase in lightly reactive mitochondria throughout the puffs, especially in dendrites. This indicates that afferent blockade is more detrimental to processes of higher metabolic activity. Changes also differed between central and peripheral regions of puffs, and indications of axonal and synaptic reorganization were more evident in the latter. Thus, stabilization of neuronal structure and synapses appears to be activity-dependent even in the adult. A working model of these metabolic and morphological responses to chronic TTX is proposed.

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