Catecholaminergic subpopulation of retinal displaced ganglion cells projects to the accessory optic nucleus in the pigeon (Columba livia)

Academic Article


  • In birds, displaced ganglion cells (DGCs) constitute the exclusive source of retinal input to the nucleus of the basal optic root (nBOR) of the accessory optic system. Tyrosine‐hydroxylase (TH) immunoreactivity was examined in the pigeon retina after injections of rhodamine‐labeled microspheres into the nBOR. A population of about 400 DGCs was observed in each case to exhibit both TH immunoreactivity and rhodamine bead fluorescence. This corresponded to about 10–15% of the total number of identified DGCs in each retina. Double‐labeled cells were medium‐ to large‐size (12 to 20 μm in the largest axis) and were always located at the border between the inner nuclear and the inner plexiform layers. Their dendrites could be followed horizontally in lamina 1 of the inner plexiform layer for up to 300 μm from the cell body. The distribution of double‐labeled DGCs appeared to be mostly peripheral, matching the overall distribution of identified DGCs. Larger DGCs (21–28 μm) were never seen to contain TH immunoreactivity. Examination of brain sections revealed plexuses of thin varicose TH‐positive axons in all subdivisions of the nBOR. Unilateral enucleation produced an almost complete elimination of TH immunoreactivity in the contralateral nucleus. Such results suggest the existence of a population of catecholaminergic DGCs projecting into the accessory optic system of the pigeon. They also support the emerging hypothesis concerning the neurotransmitter heterogeneity of ganglion cells in the vertebrate retina. Copyright © 1988 Alan R. Liss, Inc.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Britto LRG; Keyser KT; Hamassaki DE; Karten HJ
  • Start Page

  • 109
  • End Page

  • 117
  • Volume

  • 269
  • Issue

  • 1