Cellular and Molecular Analysis of Dendritic Morphogenesis in a Retinal Cell Type That Senses Color Contrast and Ventral Motion.

Published Date: 
December 13, 2017

Liu J, Sanes JR

As neuronal dendrites develop, they acquire cell-type-specific features including characteristic size, shape, arborization, location and synaptic patterns. These features, in turn, are major determinants of type-specific neuronal function. Because neuronal diversity complicates the task of relating developmental programs to adult structure and function, we analyzed dendritic morphogenesis in a single retinal ganglion cell (RGC) type in mouse called J-RGC. We documented the emergence of five dendritic features that underlie J-RGC physiology: (1) dendritic field size, which approximate receptive field size; (2) dendritic complexity, which affects how J-RGCs sample space; (3) asymmetry, which contributes to direction-selectivity; (4) restricted lamination within the inner plexiform layer (IPL), which renders J-RGCs responsive to light decrements; and (5) distribution of synaptic inputs, which generate a color-opponent receptive field. We found dendritic growth in J-RGCs is accompanied by a refinement in dendritic self-crossing. Asymmetry arises by a combination of selective pruning and elaboration, whereas laminar restriction results from biased outgrowth toward the outermost IPL. Interestingly, asymmetry develops in a protracted dorsoventral wave, whereas lamination does so in a rapid centrifugal wave. As arbors mature, they acquire excitatory and inhibitory synapses, with the latter forming first and being concentrated in proximal dendrites. Thus, distinct mechanisms operate in different spatiotemporal dimensions of J-RGC dendritic patterning to generate the substrate for specific patterns of synaptogenesis. Finally, we asked whether the defining molecular signature of J-RGCs, the adhesion molecule JAM-B, regulates morphogenesis, and showed that it promotes dendro-dendritic interactions. Our results reveal multiple mechanisms that shape a dendritic arbor.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Visual perception begins in the retina, where distinct types of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) are tuned to specific visual features such as direction of motion. The features to which each RGC type responds are determined largely by the number and type of synaptic inputs it receives, and these, in turn, are greatly influenced by the size, shape, arborization pattern, and location of its dendrites. We analyzed dendritic morphogenesis in a functionally characterized RGC type, the J-RGC, demonstrating distinct mechanisms that operate in different dimensions to generate the dendritic scaffold and synaptic patterns for feature detection. Our work elucidates cellular and molecular mechanisms that shape dendritic arbors and synaptic distribution, enabling J-RGC connectivity and thus, function.