Spatial density and distribution of choline acetyltransferase immunoreactive cells in human, macaque, and baboon retinas

J Comp Neurol. 1992 Jul 1;321(1):46-64. doi: 10.1002/cne.903210106.


Whole-mounted human, macaque, and baboon retinas were labelled with an antiserum to human choline acetyltransferase (ChAT), by the immunoperoxidase technique. Previous work in nonprimate species has shown that these cells correspond to the starburst amacrine cells. Labelled somata were disposed on either side of the inner plexiform layer, and their processes formed two narrow zones within it. In human retinas, the ratio of labelled somata in the ganglion cell layer (GCL) to those in the inner nuclear layer (nominal Sb/Sa ratio) was about 60/40 at all locations, similar to that found in nonprimate mammalian species. The density of labelled cells in the human GCL ranged from 1,000 to 1,150 mm-2 near the fovea to 300 to 400 mm-2 in the periphery. Labelling tended to be more erratic in macaque retinas. Nevertheless the Sb/Sa ratio was as high as 70/30 and spatial densities were similar to those of humans. The overlap factor in macaque retinas outside the nasal quadrant was about 10 at all retinal eccentricities, based upon dendritic-field sizes from a Golgi study. About each labelled soma there was a region 20 to 120 microns in diameter in which the probability of the occurrence of other labelled somata was lower than elsewhere. No such nonrandomness was found between labeled cells in the GCL and those in the amacrine cell layer. The packing factor was about 0.3 in well-labelled regions, independent of retinal position or spatial density. Published data on ChAT-labelled cells in rabbit and rat show a similar value. This invariance is consistent with the hypothesis that this nonrandomness is a residual consequence of somal contiguity at an early developmental stage.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase / analysis*
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Hominidae / anatomy & histology*
  • Humans
  • Macaca / anatomy & histology*
  • Macaca mulatta / anatomy & histology
  • Macaca nemestrina / anatomy & histology
  • Papio / anatomy & histology*
  • Rabbits / anatomy & histology
  • Rats / anatomy & histology
  • Retina / anatomy & histology*
  • Retina / cytology
  • Retina / enzymology
  • Species Specificity


  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase