Mechanisms Shaping Excitatory Transmission at the Developing Retinogeniculate Synapse
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CitationHauser, Jessica Lauren. 2014. Mechanisms Shaping Excitatory Transmission at the Developing Retinogeniculate Synapse. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
AbstractThe retinogeniculate synapse, the connection between retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) and thalamic relay neurons, undergoes extensive remodeling and refinement in the first few postnatal weeks. While many studies have focused on this process, little is known about the factors that influence excitatory transmission during this dynamic period. A major goal of my dissertation research was to identify mechanisms that regulate glutamate release and clearance at the developing synapse. First, we investigated the role of glutamate transporters and metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) in shaping excitatory transmission. Early in development, we found presynaptic group II/III mGluRs are present and are activated by glutamate released from RGCs following optic tract stimulation at natural frequencies. This response was found to diminish with age, but glutamate transporters continued to shape synaptic currents throughout development. The finding that glutamate is able to escape the synaptic cleft and bind extrasynaptic high-affinity mGluRs led us to speculate that glutamate might also diffuse to neighboring synapses and bind ionotropic glutamate receptors opposing quiescent release sites. Excitatory currents recorded from immature, but not mature, retinogeniculate synapses display a prolonged decay timecourse. We found evidence that both asynchronous release of glutamate as well as spillover of glutamate between neighboring synapses contributes to these slowly decaying synaptic currents. Furthermore, we uncovered and characterized a novel, purely spillover-mediated current from immature relay neurons, which strongly supports the presence of glutamate spillover between boutons of different RGCs. The results of my studies indicate that far more RGCs contribute to relay neuron firing than would be predicted by the anatomy alone. Finally, in an ongoing study, we investigated the functional role of the neuronal glutamate transporter GLT-1 at the immature retinogeniculate synapse. While GLT-1 has been found in both neurons and glia, excitatory currents at the retinogeniculate synapse were largely unaffected in mice lacking neuronal GLT-1, suggesting non-neuronal glutamate transporters are responsible for the majority of glutamate removal from the developing synapse. Taken together, these results provide insight into the synaptic environment of the developing retinogeniculate synapse and identify a number of mechanisms that shape excitatory transmission during this period of synaptic maturation and refinement.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:13090521
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