In the adult cat, axons running through the corpus callosum interconnect the border between the visual cortical areas 17 and 18 (A17 and A18) of both hemispheres. This specific pattern emerges during postnatal development, under normal viewing conditions (NR), from the elimination of initially exuberant callosal projections. In contrast, if the postnatal visual experience is monocular from birth (MD), juvenile callosal projections are stabilised throughout A17 and A18. The present study aimed at using such a model in vivo to find indications of a contribution of glial cells in the shaping of projections in the developing CNS through interactions with neurones, both in normal and pathological conditions. As a first stage, the distribution and the morphology of microglial cells and astrocytes were investigated from 2 weeks to adulthood. Microglial cells, stained with isolectin-B4, were clustered in the white matter below A17 and A18. Until one month, these clustered cells displayed an ameboid morphology in NR group, while they were more ramified in MD animals. Their phenotype thus depends on the postnatal visual experience, which indicates that microglial cells may interact with axons of visual neurones. It also suggests that they may differentially contribute to the elimination and the stabilisation of juvenile exuberant callosal fibres in NR and MD animals respectively. Beyond one month, microglial cells were very ramified in both experimental groups. Astrocytes were labelled with a GFAP-antibody. The distributions of connexins 43 (Cx43) and 30 (Cx30), the main proteic components of gap junction channels in astrocytes, were also investigated using specific antibodies. Both in NR and MD groups, until 1 month, GFAP-positive astrocytes and Cx43 were mainly localised within the subcortical white matter. Then GFAP, Cx43 and Cx30 stainings progressively appeared within the cortex, throughout A17 and A18 but with a differential laminar expression according to the age. Thus, the distributions of both astrocytes and connexins changed with age; however, the monocular occlusion had no visible effect. This suggests that astrocytes may contribute to the postnatal development of neuronal projections to the primary visual cortex, including visual callosal projections.
Copyright 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd.