Skip to main content

Differential expression analysis identifies candidate synaptogenic molecules for wiring direction-selective circuits in the retina

Go to Publication »

J Neurosci. 2024 Mar 21:e1461232024. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1461-23.2024. Online ahead of print.


An organizational feature of neural circuits is the specificity of synaptic connections. A striking example is the direction-selective (DS) circuit of the retina. There are multiple subtypes of DS retinal ganglion cells (DSGCs) that prefer motion along one of 4 preferred directions. This computation is mediated by selective wiring of a single inhibitory interneuron, the starburst amacrine cell (SAC), with each DSGC subtype preferentially receiving input from a subset of SAC processes. We hypothesize that the molecular basis of this wiring is mediated in part by unique expression profiles of DSGC subtypes. To test this, we first performed paired recordings from isolated mouse retina of both sexes to determine that postnatal day 10 (P10) represents the age at which asymmetric synapses form. Second, we performed RNA-sequencing and differential expression analysis on isolated P10 ON-OFF DSGCs tuned for either nasal or ventral motion and identified candidates which may promote direction-specific wiring. We then used a conditional knockout strategy to test the role of one candidate, the secreted synaptic organizer cerebellin-4 (Cbln4), in the development of DS tuning. Using two-photon calcium imaging, we observed a small deficit in directional tuning among ventral-preferring DSGCs lacking Cbln4, though whole-cell voltage clamp recordings did not identify a significant change in inhibitory inputs. This suggests that Cbln4 does not function primarily via a cell-autonomous mechanism to instruct wiring of DS circuits. Nevertheless, our transcriptomic analysis identified unique candidate factors for gaining insights into the molecular mechanisms that instruct wiring specificity in the DS circuit.Significance Statement By performing mRNA transcriptome analysis on three populations of direction-selective ganglion cells – two preferring horizontal motion and one preferring vertical motion – we identified differentially expressed candidate molecules potentially involved in cell subtype-specific synaptogenesis within this circuit. We tested the role of one differentially expressed candidate, Cbln4, enriched in ventral-preferring DSGCs. Using a targeted knockout approach, the deletion of Cbln4 led to a small reduction in direction-selective tuning while maintaining dendritic morphology and normal strength and asymmetry of inhibitory synaptic transmission. Overall, we have shown that this approach can be used to identify interesting candidate molecules, and future functional studies are required to reveal the mechanisms by which these candidates influence synaptic wiring within specific circuits.

PMID:38514178 | DOI:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1461-23.2024

Read More »