Layers 5 and 6 of primate primary visual cortex (V1) harbor morphologically diverse cell groups that have corticocortical and corticosubcortical projections. Layer 6 middle temporal area (MT)-projecting neurons are particularly interesting, as they are the only deep-layer cortical neurons that provide both corticocortical feedforward inputs (to area MT) and corticosubcortical feedback projections (to superior colliculus [SC]) (Fries et al.  Exp Brain Res 58:613-616). However, due to limitations in anatomical tracing techniques, little is known about the detailed morphologies of these cells. We therefore applied a genetically modified rabies virus as a retrograde tracer to fill the dendrites of projection neurons with green fluorescent protein (GFP) (Wickersham et al.  Nat Methods 4:47-49). We injected virus into SC or area MT of macaque monkeys and examined labeled cells in V1. Two-thirds of labeled neurons following SC injections were found in layer 5, consisting of "tall-tufted" and "nontufted" cells; the remaining cells were layer 6 "nontufted." Area MT injections labeled neurons in layers 4B and 6, as previously described (Shipp and Zeki  Eur J Neurosci 1:309-332). The layer 6 neurons projecting to MT were remarkably similar to the layer 6 SC-projecting neurons. In contrast to the dense and focused dendritic arbors of layer 5 "tall-tufted" pyramids, all "nontufted" cells had sparse, but unusually long basal dendrites. The nontufted cells closely resemble Meynert cells (le Gros Clark  J Anat 76:369-376; Winfield et al.  Proc R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 217:129-139), but the full in vivo reconstructions presented here show that their basal dendrites can extend much further (up to 1.2 mm) and are less asymmetric than inferred from Golgi reconstructions.
Copyright © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.