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Prog Brain Res. 1996;108:313-32.

Pre- and postnatal expression of amino acid neurotransmitters, calcium binding proteins, and nitric oxide synthase in the developing superior colliculus.

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Department of Anatomy, Louisiana State University Medical Center, New Orleans 70112, USA.


Neurons within the superior colliculus (SC) contain a variety of neurochemicals, including the amino acid neurotransmitters GABA and glutamate, the calcium binding proteins calbindin and parvalbumin, and the neuromodulator nitric oxide. We have examined the development of expression of these substances using antibody immunocytochemistry. These results are summarized in Fig. 10. GABA and calbindin are expressed very early in development, at a time when cells are still dividing and migrating from the subventricular zone. The expression of both GABA and CB is maximal at around E40-46, the age at which these cells have just established their adult lamination and extrinsic afferents have begun to grow into the tectum. GABA and CB likely play diverse roles during this stage of development, including the regulation of intracellular calcium during cell migration and neurite outgrowth. Glutamate is expressed somewhat later in development while parvalbumin immunoreactivity does not appear until shortly after birth. These two substances continue to increase in density throughout the period of postnatal growth, at a time when synapse formation and evoked electrical activity are beginning to develop. Both PV and glutamate may be involved in one or both of these activity-dependent processes. Nitric oxide synthase (NOS) is expressed at different times in different cell groups. NOS appears very early in prenatal development in cells within the SVZ and in the deep gray layer of SC. On the other hands, cells within the intermediate gray layer of SC do not express NOS until shortly before birth. The igl cells that express NOS at this age are clustered neurons similar to those that project to the CFR in the adult. NOS expression occurs in these cells at precisely the time when axons begin to form patches that innervate these clusters. Based upon this temporal correlation, we hypothesize that nitric oxide may regulate synapse formation in this cell group.

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