Activity‐dependent alteration of early myelin ensheathment in a developing sensory circuit

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Chorghay, Zahraa 
MacFarquhar, David 
Li, Vanessa J. 
Aufmkolk, Sarah 
Schohl, Anne 

Abstract: Myelination allows for the regulation of conduction velocity, affecting the precise timing of neuronal inputs important for the development and function of brain circuits. In turn, myelination may be altered by changes in experience, neuronal activity, and vesicular release, but the links between sensory experience, corresponding neuronal activity, and resulting alterations in myelination require further investigation. We thus studied the development of myelination in the Xenopus laevis tadpole, a classic model for studies of visual system development and function because it is translucent and visually responsive throughout the formation of its retinotectal system. We begin with a systematic characterization of the timecourse of early myelin ensheathment in the Xenopus retinotectal system using immunohistochemistry of myelin basic protein (MBP) along with third harmonic generation (THG) microscopy, a label‐free structural imaging technique. Based on the mid‐larval developmental progression of MBP expression in Xenopus, we identified an appropriate developmental window in which to assess the effects of early temporally patterned visual experience on myelin ensheathment. We used calcium imaging of axon terminals in vivo to characterize the responses of retinal ganglion cells over a range of stroboscopic stimulation frequencies. Strobe frequencies that reliably elicited robust versus dampened calcium responses were then presented to animals for 7 d, and differences in the amount of early myelin ensheathment at the optic chiasm were subsequently quantified. This study provides evidence that it is not just the presence but also to the specific temporal properties of sensory stimuli that are important for myelin plasticity.


Funder: Montreal Neurological Institute – University of Cambridge Collaboration

Funder: Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada; Id:

RESEARCH ARTICLE, RESEARCH ARTICLES, adaptive myelination, development, experience‐dependent plasticity, neuron‐glia interactions, third harmonic generation microscopy, visual system, Xenopus
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Journal of Comparative Neurology
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Fonds de recherche du Québec – Santé (31036)
European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme (771411)
Wellcome Trust (203151/Z/16/Z)
UKRI Medical Research Council (MC_PC_17230)