Substance P-immunoreactive retinal ganglion cells and their central axon terminals in the rabbit

Nature. 1987 May;327(6118):155-8. doi: 10.1038/327155a0.


Retinal ganglion cells are the projection neurons that link the retina to the brain. Peptide immunoreactive cells in the ganglion cell layer (GCL) of the mammalian retina have been noted but their identity has not been determined. We now report that, in the rabbit, 25-35% of all retinal ganglion cells contain substance P-like (SP) immunoreactivity. They were identified by either retrograde transport of fluorescent tracers injected into the superior colliculus, or by retrograde degeneration after optic nerve section. SP immunoreactive cells are present in all parts of the retina and have medium to large cell bodies with dendrites that ramify extensively in the proximal inner plexiform layer. Their axons terminate in the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus, superior colliculus and accessory optic nuclei, and these terminals disappear completely after contralateral optic nerve section and/or eye enucleation. In the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus large, beaded, immunoreactive axons and varicosities make up a narrow plexus just below the optic tract, where they define a new geniculate lamina. The varicosities make multiple synaptic contacts with dendrites of dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus projection neurons and presumptive interneurons in complex glomerular neuropil. This is direct evidence that some mammalian retinal ganglion cells contain substance P-like peptides and strongly suggests that, in the rabbit, substance P (or related tachykinins) may be a transmitter or modulator in a specific population or populations of retinal ganglion cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / ultrastructure*
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Immunologic Tests
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Nerve Endings / ultrastructure*
  • Neural Pathways / ultrastructure
  • Optic Nerve / physiology
  • Rabbits
  • Retina / ultrastructure*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / metabolism
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / ultrastructure*
  • Substance P / metabolism*


  • Substance P