Dscam and Sidekick proteins direct lamina-specific synaptic connections in vertebrate retina

Nature. 2008 Jan 24;451(7177):465-9. doi: 10.1038/nature06469.


Synaptic circuits in the retina transform visual input gathered by photoreceptors into messages that retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) send to the brain. Processes of retinal interneurons (amacrine and bipolar cells) form synapses on dendrites of RGCs in the inner plexiform layer (IPL). The IPL is divided into at least 10 parallel sublaminae; subsets of interneurons and RGCs arborize and form synapses in just one or a few of them. These lamina-specific circuits determine the visual features to which RGC subtypes respond. Here we show that four closely related immunoglobulin superfamily (IgSF) adhesion molecules--Dscam (Down's syndrome cell adhesion molecule), DscamL (refs 6-9), Sidekick-1 and Sidekick-2 (ref. 10)--are expressed in chick by non-overlapping subsets of interneurons and RGCs that form synapses in distinct IPL sublaminae. Moreover, each protein is concentrated within the appropriate sublaminae and each mediates homophilic adhesion. Loss- and gain-of-function studies in vivo indicate that these IgSF members participate in determining the IPL sublaminae in which synaptic partners arborize and connect. Thus, vertebrate Dscams, like Drosophila Dscams, play roles in neural connectivity. Together, our results on Dscams and Sidekicks suggest the existence of an IgSF code for laminar specificity in retina and, by implication, in other parts of the central nervous system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cell Line
  • Chick Embryo
  • Eye Proteins / genetics
  • Eye Proteins / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulins / chemistry*
  • Interneurons / metabolism
  • Membrane Proteins / deficiency
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Neural Cell Adhesion Molecules / deficiency
  • Neural Cell Adhesion Molecules / genetics
  • Neural Cell Adhesion Molecules / metabolism*
  • Organ Specificity
  • Retina / cytology*
  • Retina / metabolism*
  • Synapses / metabolism*


  • Eye Proteins
  • Immunoglobulins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Neural Cell Adhesion Molecules