The anatomical properties of the axon initial segment (AIS) are tailored in certain types of CNS neurons to help optimize different aspects of neuronal function. Here, we questioned whether the AISs of retinal ganglion cells (RGC) were similarly customized, and if so, whether they supported specific RGC functions. To explore this, we measured the AIS properties in alpha sustained RGCs (α S RGCs) of mouse; α S RGCs sizes vary systematically along the nasal temporal axis of the retina, making these cells an attractive population with which to study potential correlations between AIS properties and cell size. Measurements of AIS length as well as distance from the soma revealed that both were scaled to cell size, i.e., cells with large dendritic fields had long AISs that were relatively far from the soma. Within the AIS, the percentage of Na v 1.6 voltage-gated sodium channels remained highly consistent, regardless of cell size or other AIS properties. Although ON RGCs were slightly larger than OFF cells at any given location of the retina, the level of scaling and relative distribution of voltage-gated sodium channels were highly similar. Computational modeling revealed that AIS scaling influenced spiking thresholds, spike rate as well as the kinetics of individual action potentials, Interestingly, the effect of individual features of the AIS varied for different neuronal functions, e.g., AIS length had a larger effect on the efficacy by which the AIS initiated spike triggered the somatic spike than it did on repetitive spiking. The polarity of the effect varied for different properties, i.e., increases to soma size increased spike threshold while increases to AIS length decreased threshold. Thus, variations in the relative level of scaling for individual components could fine tune threshold or other neuronal functions. Light responses were highly consistent across the full range of cell sizes suggesting that scaling may post-synaptically shape response stability, e.g., in addition to several well-known pre-synaptic contributors.
Keywords: action potential; axon initial segment; axonal geometry; morphological scaling; retinal ganglion cells.
Copyright © 2019 Raghuram, Werginz and Fried.