Stratification of ON and OFF ganglion cell dendrites depends on glutamate-mediated afferent activity in the developing retina

Nature. 1993 Jul 8;364(6433):144-6. doi: 10.1038/364144a0.


A fundamental attribute of the vertebrate visual system is the segregation of ON and OFF pathways signalling increments and decrements of light. In the mature retina, dendrites of ON- and OFF-centre retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) stratify in different sublaminae of the inner plexiform layer (IPL), and are differentially innervated by two types of bipolar cells which depolarize and hyperpolarize on exposure to light. This stratification of ON and OFF RGCs is achieved by the gradual restriction of their dendrites which ramify throughout the IPL early in development. The factors underlying this regressive event are unknown. Dendritic stratification occurs around the time that bipolar cells form synapses in the IPL, which raises the possibility that synaptic activity is involved in this process. Here we test this hypothesis by treating the developing cat retina with the glutamate analogue 2-amino-4-phosphonobutyric acid (APB), which hyperpolarizes ON cone bipolar and rod bipolar cells, thereby preventing their release of glutamate. We report that intraocular injection of APB during the period when dendritic stratification normally occurs prevents the formation of structurally segregated ON and OFF retinal pathways. These results provide evidence that glutamate-mediated afferent activity regulates the remodelling of RGC dendrites during development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aminobutyrates / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Cell Count / drug effects
  • Dendrites / drug effects
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure*
  • Glutamates / physiology*
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Photoreceptor Cells / cytology
  • Retina / drug effects
  • Retina / growth & development
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / drug effects
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / ultrastructure*


  • Aminobutyrates
  • Glutamates
  • Glutamic Acid
  • 2-amino-4-phosphonobutyric acid