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Journal Article

Functional, molecular and morphological heterogeneity of superficial interneurons in the larval zebrafish tectum


Barker,  Alison J.
Social Systems and Circuits Group, Max Planck Institute for Brain Research, Max Planck Society;

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Barker, A. J., Helmbrecht, T. O., Grob, A. A., & Baier, H. (2020). Functional, molecular and morphological heterogeneity of superficial interneurons in the larval zebrafish tectum. The Journal of Comparative Neurology, 529(9), 2159-2175. doi:10.1002/cne.25082.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0009-49A4-C
The superficial interneurons, SINs, of the zebrafish tectum, have been implicated in a range of visual functions, including size discrimination, directional selectivity, and looming-evoked escape. This raises the question if SIN subpopulations, despite their morphological similarities and shared anatomical position in the retinotectal processing stream, carry out diverse, task-specific functions in visual processing, or if they have simple tuning properties in common. Here we have further characterized the SINs through functional imaging, electrophysiological recordings, and neurotransmitter typing in two transgenic lines, the widely used Gal4s1156t and the recently reported LCRRH2-RH2-2:GFP. We found that about a third of the SINs strongly responded to changes in whole-field light levels, with a strong preference for OFF over ON stimuli. Interestingly, individual SINs were selectively tuned to a diverse range of narrow luminance decrements. Overall responses to whole-field luminance steps did not vary with the position of the SIN cell body along the depth of the tectal neuropil or with the orientation of its neurites. We ruled out the possibility that intrinsic photosensitivity of Gal4s1156t+ SINs contribute to the measured visual responses. We found that, while most SINs express GABAergic markers, a substantial minority express an excitatory neuronal marker, the vesicular glutamate transporter, expanding the possible roles of SIN function in the tectal circuitry. In conclusion, SINs represent a molecularly, morphologically, and functionally heterogeneous class of interneurons, with subpopulations that detect a range of specific visual features, to which we have now added narrow luminance decrements.