Identification of retinal ganglion cells and their projections involved in central transmission of information about upward and downward image motion

PLoS One. 2009;4(1):e4320. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0004320. Epub 2009 Jan 29.


The direction of image motion is coded by direction-selective (DS) ganglion cells in the retina. Particularly, the ON DS ganglion cells project their axons specifically to terminal nuclei of the accessory optic system (AOS) responsible for optokinetic reflex (OKR). We recently generated a knock-in mouse in which SPIG1 (SPARC-related protein containing immunoglobulin domains 1)-expressing cells are visualized with GFP, and found that retinal ganglion cells projecting to the medial terminal nucleus (MTN), the principal nucleus of the AOS, are comprised of SPIG1+ and SPIG1(-) ganglion cells distributed in distinct mosaic patterns in the retina. Here we examined light responses of these two subtypes of MTN-projecting cells by targeted electrophysiological recordings. SPIG1+ and SPIG1(-) ganglion cells respond preferentially to upward motion and downward motion, respectively, in the visual field. The direction selectivity of SPIG1+ ganglion cells develops normally in dark-reared mice. The MTN neurons are activated by optokinetic stimuli only of the vertical motion as shown by Fos expression analysis. Combination of genetic labeling and conventional retrograde labeling revealed that axons of SPIG1+ and SPIG1(-) ganglion cells project to the MTN via different pathways. The axon terminals of the two subtypes are organized into discrete clusters in the MTN. These results suggest that information about upward and downward image motion transmitted by distinct ON DS cells is separately processed in the MTN, if not independently. Our findings provide insights into the neural mechanisms of OKR, how information about the direction of image motion is deciphered by the AOS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mosaicism
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Retina / cytology
  • Retina / physiology
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / cytology
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / metabolism*
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / cytology
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / physiology
  • Visual Pathways / cytology
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*


  • Green Fluorescent Proteins