Regulation of synaptic connections in the rabbit ciliary ganglion.
One of the intriguing questions about the establishment of synaptic connections is how appropriate numbers of different axons come to innervate each target neuron. A reorganization of connections in early postnatal life appears to be an important aspect of this process, since many of the axons terminals that initially innervate target cells are subsequently lost. The rabbit ciliary ganglion is a remarkably simple neural ensemble in which to examine this rearrangement of developing synaptic connections. Using this system we have found that a reduction in the number of axons innervating each cell occurs without any change in the number of ciliary ganglion cells or preganglionic neurons; therefore the rearrangement is not based on cell death. The number of different axons that ultimately innervate each cell is, however, influenced in some way by the geometry of individual target neurons. Thus, mature ganglion cells that lack dendrites are generally innervated by a single axon, while neurons with increasingly complex dendritic arbors receive innervation from a commensurate number of different axons. At birth, on the other hand, neurons with or without dendritic processes receive about the same number of preganglionic inputs. These results suggest that the geometry of the target cell influences the competitive interaction between different axons innervating the same neuron. Indeed, an important function of dendrites may be to regulate the number of axons that innervate each nerve cell.
Purves, D; Johnson, DA; Hume, RI
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