The diversity of ganglion cells in a mammalian retina

J Neurosci. 2002 May 1;22(9):3831-43. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.22-09-03831.2002.


We report a survey of the population of ganglion cells in the rabbit retina. A random sample of 301 neurons in the ganglion cell layer was targeted for photofilling, a method in which the arbors of the chosen neurons are revealed by diffusion of a photochemically induced fluorescent product from their somas. An additional 129 cells were labeled by microinjection of Lucifer yellow. One hundred and thirty-eight cells were visualized by expression of the gene encoding a green fluorescent protein, introduced by particle-mediated gene transfer. One hundred and sixty-six cells were labeled by particle-mediated introduction of DiI. In the total population of 734 neurons, we could identify 11 types of retinal ganglion cell. An analysis based on retinal coverage shows that this number of ganglion cell types would not exceed the available total number of ganglion cells. Although some uncertainties remain, this sample appears to account for the majority of the ganglion cells present in the rabbit retina. Some known physiological types could easily be mapped onto structural types, but half of them could not; a large set of poorly known codings of the visual input is transmitted to the brain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biolistics
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Size
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Fluorescent Dyes / administration & dosage
  • Fluorescent Dyes / pharmacokinetics
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Isoquinolines / administration & dosage
  • Isoquinolines / pharmacokinetics
  • Luminescent Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Luminescent Proteins / genetics
  • Microinjections
  • Microspheres
  • Rabbits
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / classification*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / cytology
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / physiology*
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology
  • Visual Fields / physiology


  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Isoquinolines
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • lucifer yellow