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Vis Neurosci. 2004 Mar-Apr;21(2):145-55.

The type 1 polyaxonal amacrine cells of the rabbit retina: a tracer-coupling study.

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  • 1Vision, Touch & Hearing Research Centre, School of Biomedical Sciences, Queensland Brain Institute, The University of Queensland, Brisbane 4072, Queensland, Australia.


The type 1 polyaxonal (PA1) cell is a distinct type of axon-bearing amacrine cell whose soma commonly occupies an interstitial position in the inner plexiform layer; the proximal branches of the sparse dendritic tree produce 1-4 axon-like processes, which form an extensive axonal arbor that is concentric with the smaller dendritic tree (Dacey, 1989; Famiglietti, 1992a,b). In this study, intracellular injections of Neurobiotin have revealed the complete dendritic and axonal morphology of the PA1 cells in the rabbit retina, as well as labeling the local array of PA1 cells through homologous tracer coupling. The dendritic-field area of the PA1 cells increased from a minimum of 0.15 mm2 (0.44-mm equivalent diameter) on the visual streak to a maximum of 0.67 mm2 (0.92-mm diameter) in the far periphery; the axonal-field area also showed a 3-fold variation across the retina, ranging from 3.1 mm2 (2.0-mm diameter) to 10.2 mm2 (3.6-mm diameter). The increase in dendritic- and axonal-field size was accompanied by a reduction in cell density, from 60 cells/mm2 in the visual streak to 20 cells/mm2 in the far periphery, so that the PA1 cells showed a 12 times overlap of their dendritic fields across the retina and a 200-300 times overlap of their axonal fields. Consequently, the axonal plexus was much denser than the dendritic plexus, with each square millimeter of retina containing approximately 100 mm of dendrites and approximately 1000 mm of axonal processes. The strong homologous tracer coupling revealed that approximately 45% of the PA1 somata were located in the inner nuclear layer, approximately 50% in the inner plexiform layer, and approximately 5% in the ganglion cell layer. In addition, the Neurobiotin-injected PA1 cells sometimes showed clear heterologous tracer coupling to a regular array of small ganglion cells, which were present at half the density of the PA1 cells. The PA1 cells were also shown to contain elevated levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), like other axon-bearing amacrine cells.

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