Intraocular pressure (IOP) elevation is a principal risk factor for glaucoma. Using a microbead injection technique to chronically raise IOP for 15 or 30 d in mice, we identified the early changes in visual response properties of different types of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) and correlated these changes with neuronal morphology before cell death. Microbead-injected eyes showed reduced optokinetic tracking as well as cell death. In such eyes, multielectrode array recordings revealed that four RGC types show diverse alterations in their light responses upon IOP elevation. OFF-transient RGCs exhibited a more rapid decline in both structural and functional organizations compared with other RGCs. In contrast, although the light-evoked responses of OFF-sustained RGCs were perturbed, the dendritic arbor of this cell type remained intact. ON-transient and ON-sustained RGCs had normal functional receptive field sizes but their spontaneous and light-evoked firing rates were reduced. ON-and OFF-sustained RGCs lost excitatory synapses across an otherwise structurally normal dendritic arbor. Together, our observations indicate that there are changes in spontaneous activity and light-evoked responses in RGCs before detectable dendritic loss. However, when dendrites retract, we found corresponding changes in receptive field center size. Importantly, the effects of IOP elevation are not uniformly manifested in the structure and function of diverse RGC populations, nor are distinct RGC types perturbed within the same time-frame by such a challenge.
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