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Mol Cell Neurosci. 2011 Apr;46(4):731-41. doi: 10.1016/j.mcn.2011.02.004. Epub 2011 Feb 17.

Foxn4 is required for retinal ganglion cell distal axon patterning.

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Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, FL 33136, USA.


The regulation of retinal ganglion cell (RGC) axon growth and patterning in vivo is thought to be largely dependent on interactions with visual pathway and target cells. Here we address the hypothesis that amacrine cells, RGCs' presynaptic partners, regulate RGC axon growth or targeting. We asked whether amacrine cells play a role in RGC axon growth in vivo using Foxn4(-/-) mice, which have fewer amacrine cells, but a normal complement of RGCs. We found that Foxn4(-/-) mice have a similar reduction in most subtypes of amacrine cells examined. Remarkably, spontaneous retinal waves were not affected by the reduction of amacrine cells in the Foxn4(-/-) mice. There was, however, a developmental delay in the distribution of RGC projections to the superior colliculus. Furthermore, RGC axons failed to penetrate into the retinorecipient layers in the Foxn4(-/-) mice. Foxn4 is not expressed by RGCs and was not detectable in the superior colliculus itself. These findings suggest that amacrine cells are critical for proper RGC axon growth in vivo, and support the hypothesis that the amacrine cell-RGC interaction may contribute to the regulation of distal projections and axon patterning.

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