To clarify which vesicular glutamate transporter (VGluT) is used by excitatory axon terminals of the retinofugal system, we examined immunoreactivities and mRNA signals for VGluT1 and VGluT2 in the rat retina and compared immunoreactivities for VGluT1 and VGluT2 in the retinorecipient regions using double immunofluorescence method, anterograde tracing, and immunoelectron microscopy. Furthermore, the changes of VGluT1 and VGluT2 immunoreactivities were studied after eyeball enucleation. Intense immunoreactivity and mRNA signal for VGluT2, but not for VGluT1 immunoreactivity, were observed in most perikarya of ganglion cells in the retina. Immunoelectron microscopy revealed that VGluT1- and VGluT2-immunolabeled terminals made asymmetrical synapses, suggesting that they were excitatory synapses, and that VGluT1-immunolabeled terminals were smaller than VGluT2-labeled ones in many retinorecipient regions, such as the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus (LGd) and superior colliculus (SC). Double immunofluorescence study further revealed that almost no VGluT2 immunoreactivity was colocalized with VGluT1 in the retinorecipient regions. After wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) injection into the eyeballs, WGA immunoreactivity was colocalized in the single axon terminals of LGd and SC with VGluT2 but not VGluT1 immunoreactivity. After unilateral enucleation, VGluT2 immunoreactivity in the LGd, SC, nucleus of the optic tract, and nuclei of the accessory optic tract in the contralateral side of the enucleated eye was clearly decreased. Although only a small change of VGluT2 immunoreactivity was observed in the contra- and ipsilateral suprachiasmatic nuclei, olivary pretectal nucleus, anterior pretectal nucleus, and posterior pretectal nucleus, moderate reduction of VGluT2 was found in these regions after bilateral enucleation. On the other hand, almost no change in VGluT1 immunoreactivity was found in the structures examined in the present enucleation study. Thus, the present results support the notion that the retinofugal pathways are glutamatergic, and indicate that VGluT2, but not VGluT1, is employed for accumulating glutamate into synaptic vesicles of retinofugal axons.
Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.