We have examined the form, diversity, and organization of three functional classes of retinal inputs to the zebrafish optic tectum during development. Our systems-based approach was to analyze data from populations of retinal ganglion cells labeled with a presynaptic targeted calcium indicator, synaptophysin GCaMP3 (SyGCaMP3). Collectively, our findings provide an insight as to the degree of visual encoding during retino-tectal development and how it dynamically evolves from a nascent and noisy presynaptic neural-scape to an increasingly complex and refined representation. We report five key features: (1) direction-selective inputs are developmentally invariant; (2) orientation-selective inputs exhibit highly dynamic properties over the same period, with changes in their functional characteristics and spatial organization; (3) inputs defined as anisotropic are an early dominant functional class, with heterogeneous response profiles, which progressively diminish in incidence and spatial extent; (4) dark rearing selectively affects the orientation-selective responses: both functional characteristics and relative spatial distributions; and (5) orientation-selective inputs exhibit four subtypes, two more than previously identified in any species. Our approach was to label RGC axon terminals with an indicator of activity and quantitatively characterize coherent response properties to different visual stimuli. Its application in the zebrafish, given its small size and the accessibility of the tectum, has enabled a quick yet robust assessment of multiple functional populations of responses.
Lowe, A. S., Nikolaou, N., Hunter, P. R., Thompson, I. D., & Meyer, M. P. (2013). A systems-based dissection of retinal inputs to the zebrafish tectum reveals different rules for different functional classes during development. Journal of Neuroscience, 33(35), 13946-13956. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1866-13.2013