In vivo two-photon imaging reveals a role of arc in enhancing orientation specificity in visual cortex.
Cortical representations of visual information are modified by an animal's visual experience. To investigate the mechanisms in mice, we replaced the coding part of the neural activity-regulated immediate early gene Arc with a GFP gene and repeatedly monitored visual experience-induced GFP expression in adult primary visual cortex by in vivo two-photon microscopy. In Arc-positive GFP heterozygous mice, the pattern of GFP-positive cells exhibited orientation specificity. Daily presentations of the same stimulus led to the reactivation of a progressively smaller population with greater reactivation reliability. This adaptation process was not affected by the lack of Arc in GFP homozygous mice. However, the number of GFP-positive cells with low orientation specificity was greater, and the average spike tuning curve was broader in the adult homozygous compared to heterozygous or wild-type mice. These results suggest a physiological function of Arc in enhancing the overall orientation specificity of visual cortical neurons during the post-eye-opening life of an animal.