Bifurcating axons of retinal ganglion cells terminate in the hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nucleus and the intergeniculate leaflet of the thalamus

Neurosci Lett. 1985 Apr 9;55(2):211-7. doi: 10.1016/0304-3940(85)90022-9.


At least some retinal axons afferent to the hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN; a circadian oscillator) bifurcate in the optic chiasm (O.E. Millhouse, Brain Res., 137 (1977) 351-355). The termination site(s) of the axonal branch that continues in the optic tract is unknown. Injection of the fluorescent tracer, True Blue, into the SCN and the fluorescent dye, Nuclear Yellow, into the lateral geniculate complex resulted in the labeling of individual retinal ganglion cells with both tracers. However, only Nuclear Yellow injections which included the intergeniculate leaflet (IGL) resulted in double-labeled ganglion cells in the retinae. These results indicate that individual retinal ganglion cells innervate both the hypothalamic SCN and the IGL of the thalamus by means of divergent axonal collaterals. Moreover, neurons of the IGL are afferent to the SCN, thereby forming a complex circuit within which photic information from the same retinal ganglion cell may influence the SCN both directly and after thalamic processing.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons
  • Cricetinae
  • Male
  • Mesocricetus
  • Retina / cytology*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / cytology*
  • Suprachiasmatic Nucleus / anatomy & histology*
  • Thalamic Nuclei / anatomy & histology*
  • Visual Pathways / anatomy & histology