Cone photoreceptor recovery after experimental detachment and reattachment: an immunocytochemical, morphological, and electrophysiological study

Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2003 Jan;44(1):416-25. doi: 10.1167/iovs.02-0633.


Purpose: To compare the morphologic and functional recovery of the retina after detachment and reattachment in an animal with a cone-dominant retina, the ground squirrel.

Methods: Ground squirrel (Spermophilus beecheyi) retinas were detached for 1 day and reattached for 7, 35, or 96 days (n = 2, each time point). Flicker ERGs were recorded 1 day after the detachment and at various times after reattachment. Contrast-response functions were measured for isochromatic modulation and for selective modulation of short-wavelength-sensitive (S) and middle-wavelength-sensitive (M) cones. At the end of the experiment, retinas were prepared for light microscopy or immunocytochemical staining with antibodies to rod opsin, S and M cone opsins, cytochrome oxidase, synaptophysin, glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), cellular retinaldehyde-binding protein (CRALBP), interphotoreceptor-binding protein (IRBP), and peanut agglutinin lectin (PNA). Photoreceptor density maps were created from wholemount preparations labeled with biotinylated PNA and anti-S cone opsin. Cell counts of photoreceptor nuclei and cone outer segments (OS) were compared with flicker ERG data. Cell death was examined by the TUNEL method.

Results: Reattachment stopped photoreceptor cell death and reversed the disruption of interphotoreceptor matrix as well as the redistribution of Müller cell proteins. It also activated some astrocytes based on anti-GFAP staining. S- and M-cone OS showed a gradual recovery in length after reattachment, and this recovery continued to the longest time points examined. ERG contrast gains also recovered after reattachment, but these reached asymptotic levels by approximately a week after reattachment. There were significant correlations between outer nuclear layer (ONL) cell counts and ERG contrast gains. No differences were noted in the indices of recovery of M and S cones.

Conclusions: The ERG can be used to follow specifically the changes in the retina that occur after retinal detachment and reattachment.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Death
  • Contrast Sensitivity / physiology
  • Electroretinography
  • Eye Proteins / metabolism
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Indirect
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Mitochondria / physiology
  • Neuroglia / physiology
  • Presynaptic Terminals / physiology
  • Retinal Cone Photoreceptor Cells / pathology
  • Retinal Cone Photoreceptor Cells / physiology*
  • Retinal Detachment / physiopathology*
  • Retinal Detachment / surgery
  • Sciuridae
  • Sulfur Hexafluoride / therapeutic use


  • Eye Proteins
  • Sulfur Hexafluoride