Organization, Development and Enucleation-induced Alterations in the Visual Callosal Projection of the Hamster: Single Axon Tracing with Phaseolus vulgaris leucoagglutinin and Di-l


Dr Stephen E. Fish, as above


The distribution of callosal axons interconnecting lateral area 17 and medial area 18 of the rodent's occipital cortex is dramatically altered by neonatal enucleation, but it is not known how this manipulation affects the morphology of individual callosal axons or whether the enucleation-induced changes in this pathway reflect maintenance of a transient developmental state by these fibres. In the present study, these questions were addressed by tracing the individual callosal axons in normal adult and neonatally enucleated adult hamsters with Phaseolus vulgaris leucoagglutinin (PHAL) and by anterograde labelling of developing callosal axons with the carbocyanine dye, Di-l. In normal adults, injections of PHAL into the region of the 17–18a border produced dense labelling in all layers in the region of the contralateral 17–18a border. Larger injections resulted in callosal labelling that extended across the lateral one-half of area 17, primarily in layers l and V. Thirty-four callosal axons from normal adult hamsters were reconstructed through all the cortical laminae. Most of these had very simple terminal arbors. They gave off short collaterals in the infragranular layers and branched more extensively in the uppermost part of layer II-III and in lamina l. Small injections of PHAL into the occipital cortex of neonatally enucleated adult hamsters resulted in labelled axons throughout most of areas 17 and 18a in the contralateral hemisphere. The terminal arbors of most individual callosal axons in eyeless hamsters were not appreciably different from those in sighted animals. However, 26.8% of 28 fibres reconstructed through all cortical laminae in the neonatally enucleated hamsters had much more widespread branches than any of the axons recovered from normal hamsters. As a result, the average total length of the callosal axons from the blinded hamsters was significantly greater than that for such fibres from the sighted animals. Anterograde labelling with Di-l demonstrated axons in the anterior commissure and anterior part of the corpus callosum on P-O. Labelled fibres extended into the white matter underlying the occipital cortex on P-1 and entered the cortical plate on P-2. Some of these axons reached into the marginal layer. Many developing callosal axons had short branches in the white matter, but generally extended only a single collateral into the cortical grey matter. Callosal axons in perinatal animals branched very little within the cortex and, in this respect, resembled fibres labelled with PHAL in adult hamsters. These results support the conclusion that the expanded tangential distribution of the occipital callosal projection in neonatally enucleated adult hamsters results, at least in part, from individual axons with abnormally widespread terminal arbors which are not present in large numbers at any time during normal development.