Neuronal activity-dependent processes are believed to mediate the formation of synaptic connections during neocortical development, but the underlying intracellular mechanisms are not known. In the visual system, altering the pattern of visually driven neuronal activity by monocular deprivation induces cortical synaptic rearrangement during a postnatal developmental window, the critical period. Here, using transgenic mice carrying a CRE-lacZ reporter, we demonstrate that a calcium- and cAMP- regulated signaling pathway is activated following monocular deprivation. We find that monocular deprivation leads to an induction of CRE-mediated lacZ expression in the visual cortex preceding the onset of physiologic plasticity, and this induction is dramatically downregulated following the end of the critical period. These results suggest that CRE-dependent coordinate regulation of a network of genes may control physiologic plasticity during postnatal neocortical development.
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