Dendritic protrusions are highly motile during postnatal development. Although spine morphological plasticity could be associated with synaptic plasticity, the function of rapid spine/filopodial motility is still unknown. To investigate the role of spine motility in the development of the visual cortex and its relation with critical periods, we used two-photon imaging of neurons from layers receiving visual input in developing mouse primary visual cortex and compared motility between control and visually deprived animals. Spine and filopodia motility was prominent during early synaptogenesis (P11-P13) but greatly decreased after P15. This "switch" was coincident with a 2.5-fold increase in protrusion density and spine formation. Spine motility was not regulated during the critical period for monocular deprivation (P19-P34). Moreover, delaying the critical period by dark rearing did not delay the normal developmental decrease of spine motility, but caused a modest further reduction in motility at P28-P35. Dark rearing and enucleation also mildly reduced spine motility before eye opening and dark rearing reduced the proportion of filopodia. We conclude that (1) rapid spine motility is not related to critical period plasticity, but is likely to play a role in early synaptogenesis, and (2) neuronal activity stimulates spine motility during synaptogenesis and promotes the appearance of dendritic filopodia.
Copyright 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Neurobiol 59: 236-246, 2004