Changing patterns of ganglion cell coupling and connexin expression during chick retinal development

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Abstract

We have used dye injection and immunolabeling to investigate the relationship between connexin (Cx) expression and dye coupling between ganglion cells (GCs) and other cells of the embryonic chick retina between embryonic days 5 and 14 (E5–14). At E5, GCs were usually coupled, via soma-somatic or dendro-somatic contacts, to only one or two other cells. Coupling increased with time until E11 when GCs were often coupled to more than a dozen other cells with somata in the ganglion cell layer (GCL) or inner nuclear layer (INL). These coupled clusters occupied large areas of the retina and coupling was via dendro-dendritic contacts. By E14, after the onset of synaptogenesis and at a time of marked cell death, dye coupling was markedly decreased with GCs coupled to three or four partners. At this time, coupling was usually to cells of the same morphology, whereas earlier coupling was heterogeneous. Between E5 and E11, GCs were sometimes coupled to cells of neuroepithelial morphology that spanned the thickness of the retina. The expression of Cx 26, 32, and 43 differed and their distribution changed during the period studied, showing correlation with events such as proliferation, migration, and synaptogenesis. These results suggest specific roles for gap junctions and Cx's during retinal development. © 2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Neurobiol 52: 280–293, 2002

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