Receptive field structure–function correlates in developing turtle retinal ganglion cells

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Abstract

Mature retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) have distinct morphologies that often reflect specialized functional properties such as On and Off responses. But the structural correlates of many complex receptive field (RF) properties (e.g. responses to motion) remain to be deciphered. In this study, we have investigated whether motion anisotropies (non-homogeneities) characteristic of embryonic turtle RGCs arise from immature dendritic arborization in these cells. To test this hypothesis, we have looked at structure–function correlates of developing turtle RGCs from Stage 23 (S23) when light responses emerge, until 15 weeks post-hatching (PH). Using whole cell patch clamp recordings, RGCs were labelled with Lucifer Yellow (LY) while recording their responses to moving edges of light. Comparison of RF and dendritic arbor layouts revealed a weak correlation. To obtain a larger structural sample of developing RGCs, we have looked at dendritic morphology in RGCs retrogradely filled with the tracer horseradish peroxidase (HRP) from S22 (when RGCs become spontaneously active, shortly before they become sensitive to light) until two weeks PH. We found that there was intense dendritic growth from S22 onwards, reaching peak proliferation at S25 (a week before hatching), while RGCs are still exhibiting significant motion anisotropies. Based on these observations, we suggest that immature anisotropic RGC RFs must originate from sparse synaptic inputs onto RGCs rather than from the immaturity of their growing dendritic trees.

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