Purpose: To test whether visual experience and/or eye movements drive the postnatal development of palisade endings in extraocular muscles.
Methods: In three newborn cats, the right eye was covered until 30 days from postnatal (P) day 7 (before opening their eyes), and in three cats both eyes were covered until 45 days, also from P7. To block eye movements, another seven cats received a retrobulbar injection of botulinum neurotoxin A (BoNT-A) into the left orbit at birth and survived for 45 days (three cats) and 95 days (four cats). The distal third of the rectus muscles containing the palisade endings was used for whole-mount preparation and triple-fluorescence labeling with anti-neurofilament along with (1) anti-synaptophysin and phalloidin or (2) anti-growth associated protein 43 (GAP43) and phalloidin. Immunolabeled specimens were analyzed in the confocal laser scanning microscope.
Results: After unilateral and bilateral dark rearing, palisade endings were qualitatively and quantitatively equal to those from age-matched controls. After BoNT-A induced eye immobilization for 45 or 95 days, palisade endings were absent in the superior rectus and lateral rectus muscles and only present in the inferior rectus and medial rectus muscle. These BoNT-A-treated palisade endings were rudimentary and reduced in number, and the expression of the neuronal developmental protein GAP43 was significantly reduced.
Conclusions: This study demonstrates that eye immobilization, but not visual deprivation, affects palisade ending development. Palisade endings develop in the first month of life, and the present findings indicate that, during this time window, palisade endings are prone to oculomotor perturbations.