Development of trigeminal nucleus principalis in the rat: Effects of target removal at birth

Mark F. Jacquin, Jamil Z. Rana, Michael W. Miller, Nicolas L. Chiaia, Robert W. Rhoades

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Little is known about how neurons develop in the trigeminal nucleus principalis (PrV) despite their acknowledged role in establishing whisker-related patterns in the thalamus and cortex. Golgi-impregnated PrV cells were studied in newborn, 4-day-old and adult rats. Adult neurons typically had short dendrites that were confined to a hemisphere around the soma. In contrast, at birth PrV neurons had radial trees and more primary dendrites than did adults, but adult-like numbers of dendritic spines. By day 4, most neurons had eccentric dendritic trees and the numbers of primary dendrites per neuron were adult-like, yet spines were more prevalent than in adults and newborns. Thus, it appears that there is a pruning of the dendritic tree during the first postnatal week. To assess the role of retrograde signals from the thalamus on PrV development, the right thalamus was destroyed at birth. By postnatal day 6, the number of neurons in the left PrV was 59% of that in the right PrV, PrV transverse area was reduced by 21%, cell density was reduced by 48%, and somatic diameter was increased by 36%, relative to the intact right PrV. By contrast, in the left V subnucleus interpolaris, which has only a weak thalamic projection, these measures were unaffected. Thus, neonatal thalamic lesions selectively depopulated the PrV. The morphology of PrV neurons was affected by the thalamic lesions: e.g. the total dendritic length, the number of dendritic branch points and the total number of spines were increased. The number of primary dendrites and the tree's eccentricity, area, and volume of influence were unaffected by the lesion. The structure of neurons in subnucleus interpolaris was unaffected by the lesion. Thus, normal afferent patterning is insufficient for normal development of PrV cells. Interactions among dendrites and retrograde signals from a target are also important.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1641-1657
Number of pages17
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1996


  • Barrel
  • Cell death
  • Pattern formation
  • Somatosensory
  • Trophic factor


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