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J Comp Neurol. 2014 Apr 1;522(5):1155-70. doi: 10.1002/cne.23487.

The effect of photoreceptor degeneration on ganglion cell morphology.

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Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, 3010, Australia.


Retinitis pigmentosa refers to a family of inherited photoreceptor degenerations resulting in blindness. During and after photoreceptor loss, neurons of the inner retina are known to undergo plastic changes. Here, we have investigated in detail whether ganglion cells are altered at late stages of degeneration, well after the total loss of photoreceptors. We used mice, rd1-Thy1, that carry a mutation in the β-subunit of phosphodiesterase 6 and a fluorescent protein that labels a subset of ganglion cells and B6-Thy1 control mice. Retinal wholemounts from mice aged 3-11 months were processed for immunohistochemistry and analyzed. Ganglion cells were classified based on soma area, dendritic field size, and branching of dendrites. The dendritic fields of some ganglion cells were further analyzed for their length, area and quantity of branching points. There was a decrease in size and level of branching of A2, B1, and D type ganglion cells in the degenerated retina at 11 months of age. In contrast, C1 ganglion cells remained unchanged. In addition, there was a shift in the proportion of ganglion cells ramifying in the different layers of the inner plexiform layer. Careful analysis of the dendrites of ganglion cells revealed some projecting to new, more distal regions of the inner plexiform layer. We propose that these changes in ganglion cell morphology could impact the function of individual cells as well as the retinal circuitry in the degenerated retina.


ganglion cell; inner plexiform layer; plasticity; retina; retinitis pigmentosa

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