During certain sensitive periods early in postnatal life, the anatomical and physiological development of the central visual pathways of cats and monkeys can be affected by the nature of an animal's early visual experience. In the last few years, studies have been started on some of the molecular and biochemical events that underlie the many functional changes induced by early selected visual deprivation in the visual cortex of kittens. In this respect, the monoclonal antibody Cat-301 provides a potentially powerful tool, because it recognizes in the cat dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus (dLGN) a proteoglycan associated with the surface of a particular class of cells, namely Y cells. In the dLGN, the Cat-301 proteoglycan appears late in postnatal development, and its expression has been shown to be experience dependent in both the dLGN and visual cortex (M. Sur, D. Frost, and S. Hockfield, 1988, J. Neurosci. 8:874–882; A. Guimaraes, S. Zaremba, and S. Hockfield, 1990, J. Neurosci. 10:3014–3024).
We have explored further the experience-dependent nature of Cat-301 expression in the dLGN with a view to establishing a biochemical correlate of the many functional changes induced by early monocular deprivation and its reversal in the kitten visual system. In addition to demonstrating differences in Cat-301 expression between deprived and nondeprived laminae of the dLGNs of kittens monocularly deprived to only 4 or 5 weeks of age, the magnitude of the laminar difference was found to increase as the period of deprivation was extended. Moreover, monocularly deprived kittens that subsequently received long periods of reverse lid suture exhibited a reversal of the pattern of immunoreactivity, so that the greatest immunoreactivity occurred in laminae innervated by the initially deprived eye. However, possibly the most surprising and important finding was the extremely low levels of immunoreactivity observed in both A laminae of monocularly deprived animals that had received relatively short periods of reverse lid suture. These data suggest that Y cell development can be drastically altered depending on the time of initiation of the period of reverse lid suture and its duration. © 1995 Wiley-Liss, Inc.