Apoptosis in the mechanisms of neuronal plasticity in the developing visual system.

C. Nucci, S. Piccirilli, R. Nisticò, L. A. Morrone, L. Cerulli, G. Bagetta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Visual experience during early postnatal life is essential for normal development of synaptic connections in the visual system. In fact, altered visual experiences such as monocular deprivation (MD) or abnormal visual stimulation (e.g. strabismus, anisometropia) during this period disrupt the physiologic organization of the visual pathway, leading to loss of visual responses in cortical neurons and reduction in visual acuity of the affected eye, so that it becomes amblyopic. The authors review the main functional and morphologic changes induced by altered visual experiences in the developing visual system and focus on the recent discovery that MD induces apoptotic cell death in the lateral geniculate nucleus of newborn rats. Particular attention is given to the authors' studies documenting that, during development, MD leads retinal terminals to release excessive glutamate in the lateral geniculate nucleus where it elevates nitric oxide and causes DNA fragmentation. The latter event is known to activate poly-(ADP-ribose) polymerase, which in turn may trigger apoptosis. Better understanding of the mechanisms underlying the morphologic changes induced by altered visual experiences during development may open new venues for studying novel neuroprotective strategies for amblyopia and, more generally, for the treatment of ophthalmic diseases associated with neuronal apoptosis.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Ophthalmology
Volume13 Suppl 3
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology

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