Regenerated retinal ganglion cell axons form normal numbers of boutons but fail to expand their arbors in the superior colliculus

J Neurocytol. 1998 Mar;27(3):187-96. doi: 10.1023/a:1006911709138.


Regenerated retinal ganglion cell (RGC) axons can re-form functional synapses with target neurons in the superior colliculus (SC). Because preterminal axon branching determines the size, shape and density of innervation fields, we investigated the branching patterns and bouton formation of individual RGC axons that had regrown along peripheral nerve (PN) grafts to the SC. Within the superficial layers of the SC, the regenerated axons formed terminal arbors with average numbers of terminal boutons that were similar to the controls. However, axonal branches were shorter than normal so that the mean area of the regenerated arbors was nearly one-tenth that of control arbors and the resulting fields of innervation contained greater than normal numbers of synapses concentrated in small areas of the target. Our results have delineated a critical defect in the reconstitution of retino-collicular circuitry in adult mammals: the failure of terminal RGC branches to expand appropriately. Because recent studies have documented that brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) can specifically lengthen RGC axonal branches not only during development in the SC but also within the adult retina after axotomy, the present quantitative studies should facilitate experimental attempts to correct this deficit of the regenerative response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axotomy
  • Cricetinae
  • Female
  • Mesocricetus
  • Nerve Endings / ultrastructure*
  • Nerve Transfer
  • Optic Nerve Injuries / pathology
  • Peroneal Nerve / transplantation
  • Regeneration*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / physiology*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / ultrastructure
  • Superior Colliculi / ultrastructure*