Visual experience during postnatal development determines the size of optic nerve axons

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The size of any axon is generally related to an internal programme (probably common for all neurones) that determines the number and organization of its cytoskeletal components. Here we show that axons from visually deprived rats are smaller than controls, although the number of microtubules and neurofilaments remains unchanged. Moreover the distance between both microtubules and neurofilaments and the amounts of 200 kDa, 160 kDa and 68 kDa neurofilament proteins are also diminished in the deprived axons. We suggest that cytoskeletal organization and axonal calibre are not only determined by intrinsic (genomic) factors, but that environmental stimulation is important for normal growth of nerve cells.

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