Structural and Functional Plasticity in the Dorsolateral Geniculate Nucleus of Mice following Bilateral Enucleation

Ashish Bhandari, Thomas W. Ward, Jennie Smith, Matthew J. Van Hook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Within the nervous system, plasticity mechanisms attempt to stabilize network activity following disruption by injury, disease, or degeneration. Optic nerve injury and age-related diseases can induce homeostatic-like responses in adulthood. We tested this possibility in the thalamocortical (TC) neurons in the dorsolateral geniculate nucleus (dLGN) using patch-clamp electrophysiology, optogenetics, immunostaining, and single-cell dendritic analysis following loss of visual input via bilateral enucleation. We observed progressive loss of vGlut2-positive retinal terminals in the dLGN indicating degeneration post-enucleation that was coincident with changes in microglial morphology indicative of microglial activation. Consistent with the decline of vGlut2 puncta, we also observed loss of retinogeniculate (RG) synaptic function assessed using optogenetic activation of RG axons while performing whole-cell voltage clamp recordings from TC neurons in brain slices. Surprisingly, we did not detect any significant changes in the frequency of miniature post-synaptic currents (mEPSCs) or corticothalamic feedback synapses. Analysis of TC neuron dendritic structure from single-cell dye fills revealed a gradual loss of dendrites proximal to the soma, where TC neurons receive the bulk of RG inputs. Finally, analysis of action potential firing demonstrated that TC neurons have increased excitability following enucleation, firing more action potentials in response to depolarizing current injections. Our findings show that degeneration of the retinal axons/optic nerve and loss of RG synaptic inputs induces structural and functional changes in TC neurons, consistent with neuronal attempts at compensatory plasticity in the dLGN.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44-59
Number of pages16
StatePublished - Apr 15 2022


  • bilateral enucleation
  • dLGN
  • excitability
  • intrinsic plasticity
  • retinogeniculate synapse
  • thalamocortical

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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