Synaptogenesis in the primary visual cortex of the tree shrew (Tupaia belangeri)

J Comp Neurol. 1991 Jun 15;308(3):491-504. doi: 10.1002/cne.903080313.


The primary visual cortex of the tree shrew is characterized by the lack of ocular dominance columns. The two eyes are represented in sublayers of laminae 3 and 4. In an earlier study using the transneuronal transport we observed that the geniculate afferents from the two eyes do not initially overlap and then segregate into their appropriate sublaminae. The final distribution pattern can already be observed during the early postnatal period. Since segregation and elimination of afferent terminal branches do not seem to take place, we wanted to investigate whether or not an overproduction of synapses can be observed as in several other animals. We examined layers 3B, 3C, 4A, and 4B, which receive afferents from the retina via the lateral geniculate nucleus, from P5 to maturity by using the electron microscope. The brain tissue was excised in the region where the central vision is represented in adult animals. Then we determined the density of synapses per 100 microns 2 neuropil for each of the four sublayers at the ages P5, P15, P19, P23, P31, and P42 and in the adult animal (AD). In determining the neuropil we measured the size of two additional compartments, i.e., the compartments consisting of perikarya and of blood vessels. At a higher resolution we determined the fraction of Gray type I and type II synapses in each sublamina and in each developmental stage. The size of the neuropil increases from 57% at P5 to 81% in AD whereas the compartment of perikarya decreases from 42% to 15% and the compartment of blood vessels increases from 1.3% to 3.9%. The synaptic density starts with very low values (3.5/100 microns 2) at P5. Then it increases rapidly and attains a maximal rate of increase during the period of eyelid opening. After this period the increase is slowed down and approaches the adult value (12.5/100 microns 2) slowly. An overproduction of synapses could not be observed. The percentage of type I and type II synapses also changes during this period. The fraction of type I synapses amounts to 73% at P5 and increases to 92% in AD. The increase in density of type I synapses is continuous and does not show any sign of overproduction. The density of type II synapses rapidly reaches it final value and then remains constant. Possibly there is a slight overproduction during the period of eyelid opening.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Shrews / anatomy & histology*
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Synapses / ultrastructure*
  • Visual Cortex / growth & development
  • Visual Cortex / ultrastructure*