Rapid dendritic remodeling in the developing retina: dependence on neurotransmission and reciprocal regulation by Rac and Rho

J Neurosci. 2000 Jul 1;20(13):5024-36. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.20-13-05024.2000.


We demonstrate that within the intact and spontaneously active retina, dendritic processes of ganglion cells exhibit rapid and extensive movements during the period of synaptogenesis. Marked restructuring occurs in seconds, but structural changes are relatively balanced across the dendritic arbor, maintaining overall arbor size and complexity over hours. Dendritic motility is regulated by spontaneous glutamatergic transmission. Both the rate and extent of the movements are decreased by antagonists to NMDA and non-NMDA glutamate receptors but are unaffected by tetrodotoxin, a sodium channel blocker. The dendritic movements are actin dependent and are controlled by the Rho family of small GTPases. Transfection of dominant-negative and constitutively active mutants into ganglion cells showed that Rac and Rho exert reciprocal effects on motility. We suggest that the Rho family of small GTPases could integrate activity-dependent and -independent signals from afferents, thereby adjusting target motility and maximizing the chance for initial contact and subsequent synaptogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • 2-Amino-5-phosphonovalerate / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Chick Embryo
  • Dendrites / drug effects
  • Dendrites / physiology*
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists / pharmacology
  • N-Methylaspartate / pharmacology
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Quinoxalines / pharmacology
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Retina / embryology*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / cytology
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / drug effects
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*
  • Tetrodotoxin / pharmacology
  • Transfection
  • rac GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism*


  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists
  • Quinoxalines
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • 2,3-dioxo-6-nitro-7-sulfamoylbenzo(f)quinoxaline
  • Tetrodotoxin
  • N-Methylaspartate
  • 2-Amino-5-phosphonovalerate
  • rac GTP-Binding Proteins
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins