Growth Of Dendrites In Intact Tissues

Recent advances in imaging early stages of neuronal development within intact tissues have led to new understandings of how dendrites grow and which factors direct formation of morphologies required for correct connectivity and function12-20. Brain slices and retinal explants have allowed examination of growth in semi-intact environments while offering increased experimental accessibility. Imaging neurons within intact preparations, however, has provided observation of growth within 3-dimensional environments complete with the full complement of external growth influencing molecules and neuronal activity. Much of our knowledge of how dendrites grow within the intact brain comes from studies of optic tectal neurons in the albino Xenopus laevis tadpole and zebrafish. The transparency of both organisms allows direct imaging of labeled brain neurons at early stages of development during extensive neurogenesis and dendritogenesis. Both preparations benefit from and easily targeted population of newly differentiated neurons produced from a proliferative zone in the caudal optic tectum, and zebrafish offers methods for transgenic manipulation. Central to this work has been the development of powerful and less damaging in vivo imaging systems21 and techniques to fluorescently label individual neurons to discern dendritic processes from the surrounding tissue13'16'22-24. Repeated time-lapse confocal or two-photon imaging with brief intervals ranging from seconds to hours allows direct examination of the motility associated with dendrite growth. Imaging the same neurons over days provide insight as to how such short-term growth events culminate to form persistent arbor structures.

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