Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Summary Foetal retina was removed from donor rats at 15 days of gestation and transplanted to the occipital cortex of neonatal host rats. The purpose of this procedure was to examine the development of retinal neurons and photoreceptors, and document synaptic patterns during maturation of the transplanted retina in an environment lacking a normal target for optic axons. Host animals were sacrificed at 5, 10, 15, 20 and 30 days and samples of cortex containing the transplant were subjected to a light and electron microscopic analysis. During early stages of development, (5 days) the retina assumes a radial orientation with the scleral (outer) surface located centrally and the vitreal (inner) surface occupying the periphery. Numerous mitotic figures are found at the centre of the transplant and columns of primitive neuroblasts appear to radiate out from this zone. By 10 to 15 days after transplantation the retinal tissue contains numerous small rosettes each of which displays a histotypic organization with recognizable layers of sensory cells and their centrally-projecting processes, an outer limiting membrane, made up of a network of zonulae adherentes, and a rudimentary outer and inner plexiform layer which delineate the cells of the inner nuclear layer. Ultrastructural analysis of such rosettes confirmed the presence of typical bipolar, amacrine, horizontal and ganglion cells, but revealed that while the plexiform layers were occupied by numerous processes from these neurons, few if any, of these exhibited synaptic vesicles. By 20 to 30 days following transplantation sensory cells have completely differentiated, giving rise to prominent inner and outer segments which display typical cilia, centrioles and basal bodies, together with numerous stacked lamellae of photoreceptors which were contorted, presumably due to growth in an abnormal site. It should be further emphasized that these structures developed in the absence of pigment cells. Synaptic development ensues during this period to form characteristic dyads within the outer and inner plexiform layers. Additionally, clusters of amacrine to amacrine contacts occurred in the inner plexiform layer and were found to be increased relative to other types of junctions. In general, synaptogenesis takes place in the outer and inner plexiform layers and all categories of retinal synapses are established, but the process was found to be significantly delayed in comparison to normal retina at the same stage of development. Quantitative analysis revealed a reduced number of presumptive ganglion cells in proportion to the other categories of neurons. Optic fibres remained small and failed to myelinate. It is suggested that lack of an appropriate target for optic axons induced this alteration and may be indirectly related to the delay in the onset of synaptic development.
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