Retinohypothalamic tract in the female albino rat: a study using horseradish peroxidase conjugated to cholera toxin

J Comp Neurol. 1991 Apr 8;306(2):344-60. doi: 10.1002/cne.903060210.


There are several anatomically and functionally distinct retinofugal pathways, one of which is the retinohypothalamic tract (RHT). In this study, horseradish peroxidase conjugated to cholera toxin (CT-HRP), a sensitive neural tracer, was employed to describe the RHT in the female albino rat. Following uniocular injection of CT-HRP, both medial and lateral components of the RHT were evident. The medial component swept caudally into and through the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) and dorsally to the subparaventricular zone. Terminal label was seen in the medial preoptic region, peri-SCN area, retrochiasmatic area, periventricular nucleus, anterior and central parts of the anterior hypothalamic area, and the subparaventricular zone. In contrast to the more focused and symmetrical medial component, the lateral component was diffuse with light terminal label in the lateral preoptic region, olfactory tubercle, lateral hypothalamus, supraoptic nucleus, and medial and posteroventral medial amygdaloid nuclei. The striking exception to this diffuse pattern of the lateral component was an extremely dense columnar terminal field over the dorsal border of the supraoptic nucleus. Whereas the intensity of label in terminal fields of the medial component was often similar on the sides ipsilateral and contralateral to the injection, the lateral component was consistently asymmetrical with greater labeling on the side contralateral to the injection. In addition, a light projection arrived at several thalamic nuclei by returning toward the thalamus from the tectal or pretectal areas via stria medullaris, and thus was not a part of the RHT. Implications for circadian as well as noncircadian photobiologic effects are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axonal Transport
  • Cholera Toxin
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Horseradish Peroxidase
  • Hypothalamus / anatomy & histology*
  • Preoptic Area / anatomy & histology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains / anatomy & histology*
  • Retina / anatomy & histology
  • Thalamus / anatomy & histology
  • Visual Pathways / anatomy & histology*


  • cholera toxin, B subunit-horseradish peroxidase
  • Cholera Toxin
  • Horseradish Peroxidase