Retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), which transfer information from the eye to the brain, are heterogeneous in structure and function, but developmental studies have generally treated them as a single group. Here, we investigate the development of RGC axonal and dendritic arbors using four mouse transgenic lines in which nonoverlapping subsets of RGCs are indelibly labeled with a fluorescent protein. Each subset has a distinct functional signature, size, and morphology. Dendrites of each subset are restricted to specific sublaminae within the inner plexiform layer in adulthood, but acquire their restriction in different ways: one subset has lamina-restricted dendrites from an early postnatal stage, a second remodels an initially diffuse pattern, and two others develop stepwise. Axons of each subset arborize in discrete laminar zones within the lateral geniculate nucleus or superior colliculus, demonstrating previously unrecognized subdivisions of retinorecipient layers. As is the case for dendrites, lamina-restricted axonal projections of RGC subsets develop in different ways. For example, while axons of two RGC subsets arborize in definite zones of the superior colliculus from an early postnatal stage, axons of another subset initially occupy a deep layer, then translocate to a narrow subpial zone. Together, these results show that RGC subsets use a variety of strategies to construct lamina-restricted dendritic and axonal arbors. Taking account of these subtype-specific features will facilitate identification of the molecules and cells that regulate arbor formation.
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