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Open Access Research

Activity-dependent regulation of MHC class I expression in the developing primary visual cortex of the common marmoset monkey

Adema Ribic126*, Gabriele Flügge15, Christina Schlumbohm1, Kerstin Mätz-Rensing3, Lutz Walter2 and Eberhard Fuchs145

Author Affiliations

1 Clinical Neurobiology Laboratory, German Primate Center/Leibniz Institute for Primate Research, Kellnerweg 4, Göttingen 37077, Germany

2 Primate Genetics Laboratory, German Primate Center/Leibniz Institute for Primate Research, Kellnerweg 4, Göttingen 37077, Germany

3 Pathology Unit, German Primate Center/Leibniz Institute for Primate Research, Kellnerweg 4, Göttingen 37077, Germany

4 Department of Neurology, Medical School, University of Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany

5 DFG Research Center Molecular Physiology of the Brain (CMPB), University of Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany

6 Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University, 333 Cedar Street, New Haven, CT 06520-8024, USA

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Behavioral and Brain Functions 2011, 7:1  doi:10.1186/1744-9081-7-1

Published: 4 January 2011

Abstract

Background

Several recent studies have highlighted the important role of immunity-related molecules in synaptic plasticity processes in the developing and adult mammalian brains. It has been suggested that neuronal MHCI (major histocompatibility complex class I) genes play a role in the refinement and pruning of synapses in the developing visual system. As a fast evolutionary rate may generate distinct properties of molecules in different mammalian species, we studied the expression of MHCI molecules in a nonhuman primate, the common marmoset monkey (Callithrix jacchus).

Methods and results

Analysis of expression levels of MHCI molecules in the developing visual cortex of the common marmoset monkeys revealed a distinct spatio-temporal pattern. High levels of expression were detected very early in postnatal development, at a stage when synaptogenesis takes place and ocular dominance columns are formed. To determine whether the expression of MHCI molecules is regulated by retinal activity, animals were subjected to monocular enucleation. Levels of MHCI heavy chain subunit transcripts in the visual cortex were found to be elevated in response to monocular enucleation. Furthermore, MHCI heavy chain immunoreactivity revealed a banded pattern in layer IV of the visual cortex in enucleated animals, which was not observed in control animals. This pattern of immunoreactivity indicated that higher expression levels were associated with retinal activity coming from the intact eye.

Conclusions

These data demonstrate that, in the nonhuman primate brain, expression of MHCI molecules is regulated by neuronal activity. Moreover, this study extends previous findings by suggesting a role for neuronal MHCI molecules during synaptogenesis in the visual cortex.