J Comp Neurol 2012 Aug;520(11):2414-29
Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology, 02-093 Warsaw, Poland.
Binocular deprivation of pattern vision (BD) early in life permanently impairs global motion perception. With the SMI-32 antibody against neurofilament protein (NFP) as a marker of the motion-sensitive Y-cell pathway (Van der Gucht et al.  Cereb. Cortex 17:2805-2819), we analyzed the impact of early BD on the retinal circuitry in adult, perceptually characterized cats (Burnat et al.  Neuroreport 16:751-754). In controls, large retinal ganglion cells exhibited a strong NFP signal in the soma and in the proximal parts of the dendritic arbors. The NFP-immunoreactive dendrites typically branched into sublamina a of the inner plexiform layer (IPL), i.e., the OFF inner plexiform sublamina. In the retina of adult BD cats, however, most of the NFP-immunoreactive ganglion cell dendrites branched throughout the entire IPL. The NFP-immunoreactive cell bodies were less regularly distributed, often appeared in pairs, and had a significantly larger diameter compared with NFP-expressing cells in control retinas. These remarkable differences in the immunoreactivity pattern were typically observed in temporal retina. In conclusion, we show that the anatomical organization typical of premature Y-type retinal ganglion cells persists into adulthood even if normal visual experience follows for years upon an initial 6-month period of BD. Binocular pattern deprivation possibly induces a lifelong OFF functional domination, normally apparent only during development, putting early high-quality vision forward as a premise for proper ON-OFF pathway segregation. These new observations for pattern-deprived animals provide an anatomical basis for the well-described motion perception deficits in congenital cataract patients.