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J Neurocytol. 1997 Jan;26(1):53-61.

Photoreceptor number and outer segment disk membrane surface area in the retina of the rat: stereological data for whole organ and average photoreceptor cell.

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Department of Human Anatomy and Cell Biology, University of Nottingham, Queen's Medical Centre, UK.


A random sampling scheme is employed to obtain stereological estimates of disk membrane surface area in the entire retina and in the average photoreceptor cell. The scheme involves the use of vertical sections with combined light and electron microscopy at several magnification levels. Left and right retinas from six albino animals were analysed. There were no significant lateral differences. On average, the retina had a volume of 16 mm3, thickness of 200 microns and surface area of 80 mm2 (representing about 56% of the external surface of the eyeball). Photoreceptor disk membranes within outer segments amplified total retinal surface by almost 1000-fold (final surface 770 cm2 per retina). The retina contained 3 x 10(7) photoreceptors (packing density 374,000 mm-2) with an average disk membrane surface area of 2600 microns2. Mean nuclear volume in photoreceptor cells was 59 microns3 and the coefficient of variation for the distribution of nuclear volumes was 57%. The data are consistent with an average of 700 disks per photoreceptor cell, a membrane area of 4 microns2 per disk and a convergence ratio of approximately 260 photoreceptors per optic nerve fibre. The basic scheme could be modified for other species and for direct cell counts conducted on rods and cones separately.

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