Mammalian visual cortex is immature at birth and develops gradually during defined postnatal temporal windows. In the present work, we studied the maturation of astrocytes in developing mouse visual cortex (VC). The cellular distribution and the level of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) were analyzed by immunohistochemistry and Western blotting. Experiments were performed at different postnatal ages: postnatal day 12 (P12), before eye opening; P24, corresponding roughly to the peak of the critical period for monocular deprivation, and P60, after the end of the critical period. At P12, GFAP immunoreactivity (IR) was distributed throughout all cortical layers. At P24, there was a prominent localization of GFAP IR in layers I, II, and VI, while cortical layers III, IV, and V contained no longer GFAP IR cells. No differences were found in GFAP IR between P24 and P60. Western blot analysis revealed a reduction of GFAP expression in the VC at P24 with respect to P12 and no significant difference between P60 and P24. These results show that GFAP expression is modulated during early postnatal development. To know whether visual experience influences the maturation pattern of GFAP expression, mice were dark-reared from P12 to P24. Dark rearing did not change the distribution and the expression of GFAP. Our results indicate that maturation of GFAP expression occurs early in postnatal development in mouse VC. In addition, we showed that GFAP development is not affected by visual deprivation.
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