Godinho, L., Mumm, J.S., Williams, P.R., Schroeter, E.H., Koerber, A., Park, S.W., Leach, S.D., and Wong, R.O. (2005) Targeting of amacrine cell neurites to appropriate synaptic laminae in the developing zebrafish retina. Development (Cambridge, England). 132(22):5069-5079.
Cellular mechanisms underlying the precision by which neurons target their synaptic partners have largely been determined based on the study of projection neurons. By contrast, little is known about how interneurons establish their local connections in vivo. Here, we investigated how developing amacrine interneurons selectively innervate the appropriate region of the synaptic neuropil in the inner retina, the inner plexiform layer (IPL). Increases (ON) and decreases (OFF) in light intensity are processed by circuits that are structurally confined to separate ON and OFF synaptic sublaminae within the IPL. Using transgenic zebrafish in which the majority of amacrine cells express fluorescent protein, we determined that the earliest amacrine-derived neuritic plexus formed between two cell populations whose somata, at maturity, resided on opposite sides of this plexus. When we followed the behavior of individual amacrine cells over time, we discovered that they exhibited distinct patterns of structural dynamics at different stages of development. During cellular migration, amacrine cells exhibited an exuberant outgrowth of neurites that was undirected. Upon reaching the forming IPL, neurites extending towards the ganglion cell layer were relatively more stable. Importantly, when an arbor first formed, it preferentially ramified in either the inner or outer IPL corresponding to the future ON and OFF sublaminae, and maintained this stratification pattern. The specificity by which ON and OFF amacrine interneurons innervate their respective sublaminae in the IPL contrasts with that observed for projection neurons in the retina and elsewhere in the central nervous system.