Rods and cones in the mouse retina. I. Structural analysis using light and electron microscopy

J Comp Neurol. 1979 Nov 15;188(2):245-62. doi: 10.1002/cne.901880204.


Rods and cones of the C57BL/6J mouse retina have been examined by light and electron microscopy to distinguish the structural features of the two photoreceptor types. By light microscopy, cone nuclei are conspicuously different from rod nuclei in 1-2 micrometer plastic sections. Cone nuclei have an irregularly shaped clump of heterochromatin that appears in single sections to be one to three clumps, whereas rod nuclei are more densely stained and have one large, central clump of heterochromatin. Cone nuclei make up approximately 3% of the photoreceptor nuclei in both the central and peripheral retina at all ages examined up to 267 days. Cone nuclei are confined to the outer half of the outer nuclear layer, and more than 50% of the cone nuclei lie adjacent to the outer limiting membrane. By electron microscopy, cones in the mouse retina meet virtually every morphological criterion of mammalian cones. The outer segments are conically shaped. Many, if not all of the outer segment discs are continuous with the outer plasma membrane, whereas almost all of the rod discs are not. Cone outer segments are only about half the length of the rod outer segments, and they are contacted by long, villous pigment epithelial cell processes. The cone inner segment diameter is greater than the outer segment diameter, and the accumulation of mitochondria present at the apical end of the inner segment forms a more conspicuous ellipsoid than in rods. The internal fiber or axon of the cone is larger in diameter than that of the rod, and it terminates in a large synaptic pedicle with multiple ribbon synapses, whereas the rod terminal is a smaller spherule with only a single ribbon synaptic complex.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Nucleus / ultrastructure
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Photoreceptor Cells / ultrastructure*
  • Synapses / ultrastructure