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Exploring how the nervous system develops
Date:6/19/2014

The circuitry of the central nervous system is immensely complex and, as a result, sometimes confounding. When scientists conduct research to unravel the inner workings at a cellular level, they are sometimes surprised by what they find.

Patrick Keeley, a postdoctoral scholar in Benjamin Reese's laboratory at UC Santa Barbara's Neuroscience Research Institute, had such an experience. He spent years analyzing different cell types in the retina, the light-sensitive layer of tissue lining the inner surface of the eye that mediates the first stages of visual processing. The results of his research are published today in the journal Developmental Cell.

Using a rodent model, Keeley and his colleagues quantified the number of cells present in each retina for 12 different retinal cell types across 30 genetically distinct lines of mice. For every cell type the team investigated, the researchers found a remarkable degree of variation in cell number across the strains. More surprising, the variation in the number of different cell types was largely independent of one another across the strains. This has substantial implications for retinal wiring during cellular development.

"These cells are connected to each other, and their convergence ratios are believed to underlie various aspects of visual processing," Keeley explained, "so it was expected that the numbers of these cell types might be correlated. But that was not the case at all. We found very few significant correlations and even the ones we did find were modest."

Using quantitative trait locus (QTL) analysis a statistical method that links two types of information, in this case cell number and genetic markers Keeley's team compared not only the covariance between different types of cells but also the genetic co-regulation of their number. When they mapped the variation in cell number to locations within the genome, the locations were rarely the same for different types
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Contact: Julie Cohen
julie.cohen@ucsb.edu
805-893-7220
University of California - Santa Barbara
Source:Eurekalert  

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