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The results of previous studies suggest that class-specific interactions contribute to the development of the different classes of retinal ganglion cells. We tested this hypothesis by examining the morphologies and distributions of alpha (α) cells in regions of mature cat retina selectively depleted of beta (β) cells as a result of visual cortex lesions at birth. We find that α cells in regions of central retina depleted of β cells are abnormally large while α cells in regions of peripheral retina depleted of β cells are abnormally small. The normal central-to-peripheral α cell soma-size gradient is absent in hemiretinae depleted of β cells. The dendritic fields of α cells in the border of β-cell-depleted hemiretina extend preferentially into the β-cell-poor hemiretina. In spite of this, α cell bodies retain their normal retinal distribution and remain distributed in a nonrandom mosaic-like pattern. Thus, it appears that the development of α retinal ganglion cells is influenced by interactions both with other α cells (class-specific interactions) and with surrounding β cells (nonclass-specific interactions).
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