Experience-dependent Regulation of the Zincergic Innervation of Visual Cortex in Adult Monkeys

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Zinc is packaged in, and released from, a subset of glutamatergic synapses in the mammalian telencephalon where it has been shown to act as a potent neuromodulator. In order to establish the functional role for zincergic neurons in visual cortical function and plasticity we have compared the topographic distribution of zincergic terminals in the primary visual cortex (V1) of normal adult vervet monkeys (Cercopithicus aethiops) to that in monkeys monocularly deprived of visual input for short (24 h) or long (3 months) survival times. In normal animals, staining levels for zinc were highest in layers 1–3, 4b, 5 and 6 and lowest in layers 4a and 4c. The laminar and tangential patterns of zinc staining were complementary to staining patterns demonstrated using cytochrome oxidase (CO) histochemistry. Following 3 months of monocular deprivation by enucleation, levels of zinc staining in layers 3, 4cα and 6a were heterogeneously reduced, clearly revealing the ocular dominance pattern in V1. When compared with the pattern of CO staining, levels of both CO and zinc were reduced in cortical territory innervated by the enucleated eye. Zinc histochemistry also revealed the ocular dominance pattern after only 24 h of monocular impulse blockade induced by enucleation or intravitreal tetrodotoxin infusion. However, by either means of deprivation for 24 h, levels of zinc were increased in deprived-eye stripes relative to nondeprived-eye stripes. These results indicate that zincergic terminals demarcate distinct compartments in the primate visual cortex. Furthermore, levels of synaptic zinc are rapidly and dynamically regulated, suggesting that zinc and/or zincergic neurons participate in mediating activity-dependent changes in the organization of the adult neocortex.

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