Pre- and post-critical period induced reduction of Cat-301 immunoreactivity in the lateral geniculate nucleus and visual cortex of cats Y-blocked as adults or made strabismic as kittens
PURPOSE: To test the post-critical period stability of perineuronal nets by comparing the expression of antigens on aggrecan (a chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan (CSPG) recognized by the monoclonal antibody Cat-301) in the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) and striate cortex (A17) of adult Y-blocked cats and cats made strabismic and amblyopic as kittens. The comparison tested the idea that pre- and post-critical period loss of synchronous activity would differentially affect the perineuronal net of Y-type neurons in LGN and A17. METHODS: Seven adult cats, two normal, three convergent strabismic amblyopic, and two monocularly Y-blocked cats, were used in this study. The strabismic amblyopic cats had been made monocularly esotropic (by tenotomy) at 14 days of age. The Y-block was created acutely by a pressure cuff placed on the optic nerve behind the left eye in adult cats. The efficacy of both procedures was tested electrophysiologically. Frontal frozen sections were incubated with the Cat-301 antibody and the labeling visualized using a DAB kit. The sections were counterstained with cresyl violet. In each section, Cat-301-stained cells with well-defined nucleoli were counted under a 20x objective with a computer-based quantitative microscope image analysis system. RESULTS: The percentage of positively labeled cells was reduced in LGN laminae that received input from the deviated eye in amblyopic cats and from the pressure-blocked eye in Y-blocked cats compared with normal cats. Surprisingly, the non-blocked laminae of the Y-blocked cats also showed a significant reduction in positively labeled neurons when compared to normals or to strabismic cats. In the visual cortex of both hemispheres of strabismic and Y-blocked cats, the density of immunopositive neurons was significantly reduced compared with normal. The effect was most pronounced in layers IV-VI for Y-blocked cats and in layer IV for strabismic amblyopic cats. CONCLUSIONS: The results demonstrate that surface expression of aggrecan in adult cat LGN and A17 of adult cat is reduced both by chronic developmental loss of synchronous input from the two eyes and by acute changes in synchronous input in adulthood. Thus both pre- and post-critical plasticity in the expression of epitopes of aggrecan can be demonstrated. The uniform distribution of Cat-301 labeling tangentially within cortical layers of strabismic amblyopic cats indicates that the reduction in immunoreactivity observed with strabismus induced early in life is not simply eye-specific. Indeed, comparison of the immunopositivity of Y-blocked and strabismic animals, both in LGN and cortex, suggests that even after the critical period is ended, the physical removal of monocular Y-type afferent activity and weakening of binocular feedback connections between cortex and thalamus can alter the stability of the perineuronal nets surrounding the affected neurons.