Regulation of neonatal development of retinal ganglion cell dendrites by neurotrophin-3 overexpression

J Comp Neurol. 2009 Jun 10;514(5):449-58. doi: 10.1002/cne.22016.


The morphology of dendrites constrains and reflects the nature of synaptic inputs to neurons. The visual system has served as a useful model to show how visual function is determined by the arborization patterns of neuronal processes. In retina, light ON and light OFF responding ganglion cells selectively elaborate their dendritic arbors in distinct sublamina, where they receive, respectively, inputs from ON and OFF bipolar cells. During neonatal maturation, the bilaminarly distributed dendritic arbors of ON-OFF retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) are refined to more narrowly localized monolaminar structures characteristic of ON or OFF RGCs. Recently, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) has been shown to regulate this laminar refinement, and to enhance the development of dendritic branches selectively of ON RGCs. Although other related neurotrophins are known to regulate neuronal process formation in the central nervous system, little is known about their action in maturing retina. Here, we report that overexpression of neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) in the eye accelerates RGC laminar refinement before eye opening. Furthermore, NT-3 overexpression increases dendritic branch number but reduces dendritic elongation preferentially in ON-OFF RGCs, a process that also occurs before eye opening. NT-3 overexpression does affect dendritic maturation in ON RGCs, but to a much less degree. Taken together, our results suggest that NT-3 and BDNF exhibit overlapping effects in laminar refinement but distinct RGC-cell-type specific effects in shaping dendritic arborization during postnatal development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism
  • Dendrites / physiology*
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Eye / cytology
  • Eye / growth & development*
  • Eye / metabolism
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Neurotrophin 3 / genetics
  • Neurotrophin 3 / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / cytology
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / physiology*


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Neurotrophin 3