Inhibition of Semaphorin3A Promotes Ocular Dominance Plasticity in the Adult Rat Visual Cortex

Elena Maria Boggio, Erich M. Ehlert, Leonardo Lupori, Elizabeth B. Moloney, Fred De Winter, Craig W. Vander Kooi, Laura Baroncelli, Vasilis Mecollari, Bas Blits, James W. Fawcett, Joost Verhaagen, Tommaso Pizzorusso*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Perineuronal nets (PNNs) are condensed structures in the extracellular matrix that mainly surround GABA-ergic parvalbumin-positive interneurons in the adult brain. Previous studies revealed a parallel between PNN formation and the closure of the critical period. Moreover, ocular dominance plasticity is enhanced in response to PNN manipulations in adult animals. However, the mechanisms through which perineuronal nets modulate plasticity are still poorly understood. Recent work indicated that perineuronal nets may convey molecular signals by binding and storing proteins with important roles in cellular communication. Here we report that semaphorin3A (Sema3A), a chemorepulsive axon guidance cue known to bind to important perineuronal net components, is necessary to dampen ocular dominance plasticity in adult rats. First, we showed that the accumulation of Sema3A in PNNs in the visual cortex correlates with critical period closure, following the same time course of perineuronal nets maturation. Second, the accumulation of Sema3A in perineuronal nets was significantly reduced by rearing animals in the dark in the absence of any visual experience. Finally, we developed and characterized a tool to interfere with Sema3A signaling by means of AAV-mediated expression of receptor bodies, soluble proteins formed by the extracellular domain of the endogenous Sema3A receptor (neuropilin1) fused to a human IgG Fc fragment. By using this tool to antagonize Sema3A signaling in the adult rat visual cortex, we found that the specific inhibition of Sema3A promoted ocular dominance plasticity. Thus, Sema3A accumulates in perineuronal nets in an experience-dependent manner and its presence in the mature visual cortex inhibits plasticity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5987-5997
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Neurobiology
Issue number9
Early online date31 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019


  • Chondroitin sulfate
  • Critical period
  • Inhibition
  • Visual cortex


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