Early in development, before the onset of vision, the retina establishes
direction-selective responses. During this time period, the retina spontaneously
generates bursts of action potentials that propagate across its extent. The
precise spatial and temporal properties of these “retinal
waves” have been implicated in the formation of retinal projections
to the brain. However, their role in the development of direction selective
circuits within the retina has not yet been determined. We addressed this issue
by combining multielectrode array and cell-attached recordings to examine mice
that lack the CaV3.2 subunit of T-type Ca2+ channels
(CaV3.2 KO) because these mice exhibit disrupted waves during the period that
direction selective circuits are established. We found that the spontaneous
activity of these mice displays wave-associated bursts of action potentials that
are altered from that of control mice: the frequency of these bursts is
significantly decreased and the firing rate within each burst is reduced.
Moreover, the projection patterns of the retina demonstrate decreased
eye-specific segregation in the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus (dLGN).
However, after eye-opening, the direction selective responses of CaV3.2 KO
direction selective ganglion cells (DSGCs) are indistinguishable from those of
wild-type DSGCs. Our data indicate that although the temporal properties of the
action potential bursts associated with retinal waves are important for
activity-dependent refining of retinal projections to central targets, they are
not critical for establishing direction selectivity in the retina.