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J Comp Neurol. 1995 Feb 13;352(3):351-66.

The retinohypothalamic tract originates from a distinct subset of retinal ganglion cells.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15261, USA.


The retinal ganglion cells giving rise to retinohypothalamic projections in the rat were identified using retrograde transport of horseradish peroxidase (HRP) or FluoroGold injected into the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), and using transneuronal transport of the Bartha strain of the swine herpesvirus (PRV-Bartha). When PRV-Bartha is injected into one eye, it is taken up by retinal ganglion cells, replicated, transported to axon terminals in the SCN, and released. There the virus may take one, or both, of two paths to retinal ganglion cells in the contralateral eye: 1) uptake by SCN neurons, replication, and release from the neurons with uptake and retrograde transport in retinal afferents originating in the contralateral retina; 2) transneuronal passage through axo-axonic appositions between retinal afferents in the SCN with subsequent retrograde transport of virus to the contralateral retina. The ganglion cells thus labeled are a homogeneous population of small neurons (mean diameter, 12.8 +/- 2.2 microns and mean area, 81.8 +/- 21.8 microns 2) with sparsely branching dendrites that are widely distributed over the retina. This population is best identified when virus labeling of retinal projections in areas beyond the hypothalamus is eliminated by lateral geniculate lesions that transect the optic tract at its entry into the geniculate complex. The same population is labeled with retrograde tracers but, with both HRP and FluoroGold, other ganglion cells are labeled, presumably from uptake by fibers of passage, indicating that the virus is a more reliable marker for ganglion cells giving rise to retinohypothalamic projections. The ganglion cells identified correspond to a subset of type III, or W, cells.

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