Transient morphological features of identified ganglion cells in living fetal and neonatal retina

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Science  31 Jul 1987:
Vol. 237, Issue 4814, pp. 522-525
DOI: 10.1126/science.3603038


The function and morphology of retinal ganglion cells in the adult mammalian visual system has been well studied, but little is known about how the adult state is achieved. To address this question, the morphological changes that retinal ganglion cells undergo during development were studied. Ganglion cells were first identified by retrograde labeling with rhodamine latex microspheres deposited in retinorecipient targets in fetal and early postnatal cats. The structure of ganglion cells was then revealed by intracellular injection of Lucifer yellow in living retinas removed and maintained in vitro. As early as 2 weeks before birth, a morphologically diverse assortment of ganglion cells is present, some of which resemble the alpha, beta, and gamma classes found in the adult. However, in contrast to the adult, developing ganglion cells exhibit several transient features, including excessive axonal and dendritic branching and exuberant somatic and dendritic spines. These morphological features indicate that there is a transient network of connectivity that could play an important role in the final determination of retinal ganglion cell form and function.

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