Expression of SPIG1 reveals development of a retinal ganglion cell subtype projecting to the medial terminal nucleus in the mouse

PLoS One. 2008 Feb 6;3(2):e1533. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0001533.


Visual information is transmitted to the brain by roughly a dozen distinct types of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) defined by a characteristic morphology, physiology, and central projections. However, our understanding about how these parallel pathways develop is still in its infancy, because few molecular markers corresponding to individual RGC types are available. Previously, we reported a secretory protein, SPIG1 (clone name; D/Bsp120I #1), preferentially expressed in the dorsal region in the developing chick retina. Here, we generated knock-in mice to visualize SPIG1-expressing cells with green fluorescent protein. We found that the mouse retina is subdivided into two distinct domains for SPIG1 expression and SPIG1 effectively marks a unique subtype of the retinal ganglion cells during the neonatal period. SPIG1-positive RGCs in the dorsotemporal domain project to the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus (dLGN), superior colliculus, and accessory optic system (AOS). In contrast, in the remaining region, here named the pan-ventronasal domain, SPIG1-positive cells form a regular mosaic and project exclusively to the medial terminal nucleus (MTN) of the AOS that mediates the optokinetic nystagmus as early as P1. Their dendrites costratify with ON cholinergic amacrine strata in the inner plexiform layer as early as P3. These findings suggest that these SPIG1-positive cells are the ON direction selective ganglion cells (DSGCs). Moreover, the MTN-projecting cells in the pan-ventronasal domain are apparently composed of two distinct but interdependent regular mosaics depending on the presence or absence of SPIG1, indicating that they comprise two functionally distinct subtypes of the ON DSGCs. The formation of the regular mosaic appears to be commenced at the end of the prenatal stage and completed through the peak period of the cell death at P6. SPIG1 will thus serve as a useful molecular marker for future studies on the development and function of ON DSGCs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Eye Proteins / analysis*
  • Mice
  • Retina / growth & development*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / chemistry
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / cytology*
  • Visual Pathways


  • Biomarkers
  • Eye Proteins