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Cell Tissue Res. 1992 Jul;269(1):39-48.

Morphogenesis of the photoreceptor outer segment during postnatal development in the mouse (BALB/c) retina.

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Department of Anatomy, Nagoya University, School of Medicine, Japan.


Disc formation of rod photoreceptor cells in developing BALB/c mice retinas was studied by rapid freeze, freeze-substitution, freeze-etching, immunocytochemistry, and myosin S-1 decoration methods. Freeze-substituted photoreceptor cells contained variously shaped vesicles in the apical swelling of the connecting cilium or the base of the outer segment during postnatal development. Rapid freezing successfully arrested pinocytosis; the fusion of small vesicles to give large ones, and the compression of certain vesicles (0.3-0.6 micron) appears to lead gradually to the formation of the so-called discs. We therefore propose that membranous discs are formed by the fusion of small pinocytotic vesicles and their subsequent compression. Discs formed in this way were partially stacked, but were ordered at random during the early developmental stages. During development, a partial stack of discs was progressively rearranged to a regular form as seen in mature outer segments. Cytoskeletal actin was expected to be involved in the disc formation; it was demonstrated in the distal axoneme of the connecting cilium during development and showed no change in its distribution. However, the polarity of the actin filaments, as revealed by myosin S-1 decoration in early developmental stages, was much more variable than in the adult. Barbed ends of actin filaments were associated with the plasma membrane or the membrane of vesicles. We also found actin filaments coiled up helically on ciliary microtubules.

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