Neurotrophin 3 signaling alters axonal branch size in RGCs.
(A) In situ hybridization with ntrk3a and ntrk3b specific antisense probes shows expression of both paralogues in broad parts of the nervous system in 5 dpf larvae. Both receptors are strongly expressed in RGCs. RGCL = Retinal Ganglion Cell Layer. Scale bars (from left to right) = 50 µm, 50 µm, 150 µm. (B) Representative pictures of single RGC axons at 5 (upper) and 7 dpf (lower panel). Control RGC cells express a membrane bound eGFP (control; left panel). To render cells unresponsive to the TrkC pathway, single RGCs express a dominant negative, kinase dead and eGFP-tagged form of the neurotrophic factor receptor ntrk3a (ntrk3adN-GFP) (dominant negative, right panel). Consequently, RGCs grow smaller arbors with less branches. (C) To investigate the effect of Ntf3 on RGC axonal growth, we monitored single eGFP positive RGCs while growing into a tectum overexpressing Ntf3 (overexpression) at 5 (upper left panel) and 7 dpf (lower left panel). Overexpression of Ntf3 was driven by an UAS:ntf3-E2A-RFP construct in the Tg(gSA2AzGFF49A) (Muto et al., 2013) transgenic line in tectal glial cells and periventricular neurons from 2 dpf onwards. By employing a 2A sequence between the ntf3 and the RFP open reading frame, both proteins were produced from the same construct. Thereby Ntf3 overexpressing cells were marked by RFP expression (right upper panel) and we analyzed the arbors of single eGFPCaax positive RGCs at 5 (upper left panel) and 7 dpf (lower left panel) growing in RFP expressing optic tecta. RGCs grow more complex arbors with more branches when invading into the Ntf3 overexpressing tectal environment compared to control RGCs (A, left panel). Lower left panel = merge of ntf3-E2A-RFP expressing tectal cells and an eGFPCaax expressing RGC axon. Scale bars = 20 µm. D = dorsal, V = ventral, R = rostral, C = caudal. (D) Schematics illustrating the approach for analysis of single RGC arbors. While in control and dominant negative expression experiments, single RGCs were labeled (upper panel), in the Ntf3 overexpression situation, single membrane bound eGFP (eGFPCaax) labeled RGCs were growing into a tectum overexpressing Ntf3 (labeled by RFP expression, shown in magenta, lower panel). (E) Quantification of total branch length and number of branches at 5 dpf in single RGC arbors upon overexpression of the dominant negative ntrk3adN-GFP construct in single RGCs or overexpression of Ntf3 in tectal cells. Ntrk3adN-GFP expressing wild-type cells are significantly smaller and grow fewer branches at 5 dpf (p < 0.001). In both, kif5aa and blumenkohl mutant embryos, expression of ntrk3adN-GFP in single RGCs inhibits the overgrowth of the axonal arbor that is normally observed. The branch length is not different to the length in wild-type cells. Ntf3 overexpression in the tectum leads to increased axonal branch length and increased branch number in wild-type RGCs (p < 0.05) (n = 8, 23, 7, 8, 26).