Morphology and mosaics of melanopsin-expressing retinal ganglion cell types in mice

J Comp Neurol. 2010 Jul 1;518(13):2405-22. doi: 10.1002/cne.22381.


Melanopsin is the photopigment of intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs). Melanopsin immunoreactivity reveals two dendritic plexuses within the inner plexiform layer (IPL) and morphologically heterogeneous retinal ganglion cells. Using enhanced immunohistochemistry, we provide a fuller description of murine cell types expressing melanopsin, their contribution to the plexuses of melanopsin dendrites, and mosaics formed by each type. M1 cells, corresponding to the originally described ganglion-cell photoreceptors, occupy the ganglion cell or inner nuclear layers. Their large, sparsely branched arbors (mean diameter 275 microm) monostratify at the outer limit of the OFF sublayer. M2 cells also have large, monostratified dendritic arbors (mean diameter 310 microm), but ramify in the inner third of the IPL, within the ON sublayer. There are approximately 900 M1 cells and 800 M2 cells per retina; each type comprises roughly 1-2% of all ganglion cells. The cell bodies of M1 cells are slightly smaller than those of M2 cells (mean diameters: 13 microm for M1, 15 microm for M2). Dendritic field overlap is extensive within each type (coverage factors approximately 3.8 for M1 and 4.6 for M2 cells). Rare bistratified cells deploy terminal dendrites within both melanopsin-immunoreactive plexuses. Because these are too sparsely distributed to permit complete retinal tiling, they lack a key feature of true ganglion cell types and may be anomalous hybrids of the M1 and M2 types. Finally, we observed weak melanopsin immunoreactivity in other ganglion cells, mostly with large somata, that may constitute one or more additional types of melanopsin-expressing cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Size
  • Dendrites / metabolism
  • Dermoscopy
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Retina / cytology
  • Retina / metabolism
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / cytology*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / metabolism*
  • Rod Opsins / metabolism*


  • Rod Opsins
  • melanopsin