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The Xenopus retinal ganglion cell as a model neuron to study the establishment of neuronal connectivity

Authors

  • Sarah McFarlane,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy, University of Calgary, Hotchkiss Brain Institute, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
    • Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy, University of Calgary, Hotchkiss Brain Institute, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
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  • Barbara Lom

    1. Biology Department and Neuroscience Program, Davidson College, Davidson, North Carolina 28035
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Abstract

Neurons receive inputs through their multiple branched dendrites and pass this information on to the next neuron via long axons, which branch within the target. The shape the neuron acquires is thus the key to its proper functioning in the neural circuit in which it participates. Both axons and dendrites grow in a directed fashion to their target partner neurons by responding to a large number of molecular cues in the milieu through which they extend. They then go through the process of synaptogenesis, first choosing a neuron on which to synapse, and then the appropriate subcellular location. How a neuron acquires its unique shape, establishes and modifies appropriate synaptic connectivity, and the molecular signals involved, are key questions in developmental neurobiology. Such questions of nervous system wiring are being pursued actively with a variety of different animal models and neuron types, each with its own unique advantages. Among these, the developing retinal ganglion cell (RGC) of the South African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis, has proven particularly fruitful for revealing the secrets of how axons and dendrites acquire their final morphology and connectivity. In this review, we describe how this system can be used to understand the multiple molecular events that instruct the incorporation of RGCs into the neural circuit that controls vision. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Develop Neurobiol 72: 520–536, 2012

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