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Dendrite growth increased by visual activity requires NMDA receptor and Rho GTPases


Previous studies suggest that neuronal activity may guide the development of synaptic connections in the central nervous system through mechanisms involving glutamate receptors and GTPase-dependent modulation of the actin cytoskeleton1,2,3,4,5,6,7. Here we demonstrate by in vivo time-lapse imaging of optic tectal cells in Xenopus laevis tadpoles that enhanced visual activity driven by a light stimulus promotes dendritic arbor growth. The stimulus-induced dendritic arbor growth requires glutamate-receptor-mediated synaptic transmission, decreased RhoA activity and increased Rac and Cdc42 activity. The results delineate a role for Rho GTPases in the structural plasticity driven by visual stimulation in vivo.

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Figure 1: Visual stimulation in vivo promotes dendritic arbor growth by a glutamate-receptor-dependent mechanism.
Figure 2: Visual system activity regulates branch dynamics in vivo.
Figure 3: Decreased RhoA activity mediates light-induced dendritic arbor growth.
Figure 4: Rac and Cdc42 mediate the light-induced increase in dendrite branch number.


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We thank K. Svoboda, P. O'Brien and B. Burbach for help constructing the two-photon microscope and P. O'Brien for constructing the electronic circuit for visual stimulation. We also thank K. Bronson for technical assistance, J. Duffy for assistance with the figures, and T. Leung and J. Dong for cDNA. We are grateful to L. Van Aelst for discussions, and R. Malinow, J. Dubnau and members of the Cline laboratory for comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by the NIH (H.T.C., K.H., E.S.R) and an endowment from the Charles Robertson Foundation to H.T.C.

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Correspondence to Hollis T. Cline.

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Sin, W., Haas, K., Ruthazer, E. et al. Dendrite growth increased by visual activity requires NMDA receptor and Rho GTPases. Nature 419, 475–480 (2002).

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