Effect of bilateral tectum lesions on retinal ganglion cell morphology in rats

J Comp Neurol. 1992 Jun 15;320(3):370-80. doi: 10.1002/cne.903200308.


We have examined morphological changes of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) during postnatal development in albino rats. Somatic diameter, dendritic field diameter, and branching frequencies of RGCs of normal rats were compared with those of animals that had received bilateral lesions of the tectum immediately after birth. Bilateral lesions of the tectum at P1 (first postnatal day) induced a dramatic increase in RGC death during the time of naturally occurring cell death in the first postnatal week. RGC densities in adult experimental animals were found to be reduced to about 55% of normal. RGCs of normal and operated animals were retrogradely stained with crystals of the fluorescent dye DiI, which was applied to the optic disc of flat mounted and fixed retinae. In normal rats, the somatic and the dendritic field diameters of the RGCs increased and the branching frequency of type I and III RGCs decreased from P1 to P14. By P14, neither the somatic diameter nor the dendritic field size had yet reached adult values and the branching frequencies were still higher than those of adult rat RGCs. In animals with bilateral lesions of the tectum, all cell types showed an increase in somatic sizes, and in type I and II RGCs an expansion of dendritic territories could be observed. The branching frequencies, however, were significantly lower than those of normal rats of the same age. The dendritic morphology in type III RGCs in operated animals was not significantly different from controls. These findings demonstrate a potential plasticity of type I and II RGCs, which respond to a loss of neighbouring cells by expansion of their dendritic field during postnatal development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Cell Count
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Lew
  • Reference Values
  • Retina / cytology
  • Retina / growth & development*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / cytology*
  • Superior Colliculi / physiology*


  • Fluorescent Dyes