The organization of several laminated structures in the brain is controlled by a signaling pathway activated by Reelin, a large glycoprotein secreted by pioneer neurons in the developing brain. Reelin binds to transmembrane receptors, including VLDLR and ApoER2, and stimulates tyrosine phosphorylation of Disabled-1 (Dab1), which associates with an NPxY motif present in the cytoplasmic domain of the receptors. Disruption of reelin, dab1, or both the vldr and apoer2 genes results in similar cell positioning defects in laminated brain regions including the cerebellum, hippocampus, and cerebral cortex. Although retinal ganglion cells express reelin during development, there is no obvious disruption of cell positioning in the retina of reeler mice. Here, we examine the expression pattern of Dab1 as a first step toward understanding the function of the Reelin signaling pathway in neural retina. Immunohistochemical analysis of the adult retina revealed that Dab1 is expressed in a specific type of amacrine cell. These cells display a narrow dendritic field and they project to two distinct sublaminae within the inner plexiform layer. Dab1 co-localizes with the high-affinity glycine transporter, indicating that these amacrine cells are glycinergic. Cells that express Dab1 are surrounded by dopaminergic fibers originating from wide-field amacrine cells. These features are characteristic of type AII amacrine cells described in other mammalian species. Analysis of the retina at several stages of development revealed that Dab1 is expressed shortly after birth during the time at which AII amacrine cells extend neurites and form synaptic connections in the inner retina. This raises the possibility that the Reelin/Dab1 signaling pathway contributes to formation of intraretinal circuitry in the neural retina.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.