Molecular identification of a retinal cell type that responds to upward motion

Nature. 2008 Mar 27;452(7186):478-82. doi: 10.1038/nature06739.


The retina contains complex circuits of neurons that extract salient information from visual inputs. Signals from photoreceptors are processed by retinal interneurons, integrated by retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) and sent to the brain by RGC axons. Distinct types of RGC respond to different visual features, such as increases or decreases in light intensity (ON and OFF cells, respectively), colour or moving objects. Thus, RGCs comprise a set of parallel pathways from the eye to the brain. The identification of molecular markers for RGC subsets will facilitate attempts to correlate their structure with their function, assess their synaptic inputs and targets, and study their diversification. Here we show, by means of a transgenic marking method, that junctional adhesion molecule B (JAM-B) marks a previously unrecognized class of OFF RGCs in mice. These cells have asymmetric dendritic arbors aligned in a dorsal-to-ventral direction across the retina. Their receptive fields are also asymmetric and respond selectively to stimuli moving in a soma-to-dendrite direction; because the lens reverses the image of the world on the retina, these cells detect upward motion in the visual field. Thus, JAM-B identifies a unique population of RGCs in which structure corresponds remarkably to function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / metabolism*
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Shape
  • Dendrites / metabolism
  • Immunoglobulins
  • Mice
  • Models, Neurological
  • Motion*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Retina / cytology*
  • Retina / radiation effects
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / cytology*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / metabolism*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / radiation effects


  • Biomarkers
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • Immunoglobulins
  • Jam2 protein, mouse