Morphology of physiologically identified retinal X and Y axons in the cat's thalamus and midbrain as revealed by intraaxonal injection of biocytin

J Comp Neurol. 1995 Apr 17;354(4):583-607. doi: 10.1002/cne.903540408.


Prior morphological studies of individual retinal X and Y axon arbors based on intraaxonal labeling with horseradish peroxidase have been limited by restricted diffusion or transport of the label. We used biocytin instead as the intraaxonal label, and this completely delineated each of our six X and 14 Y axons, including both thalamic and midbrain arbors. Arbors in the lateral geniculate nucleus appeared generally as has been well documented previously. Interestingly, all of the labeled axons projected a branch beyond thalamus to the midbrain. Each X axon formed a terminal arbor in the pretectum, but none continued to the superior colliculus. In contrast, 11 of 14 Y axons innervated both the pretectum and the superior colliculus, one innervated only the pretectum, and two innervated only the superior colliculus. Two of the Y axons were quite unusual in that their receptive fields were located well into the hemifield ipsilateral with respect to the hemisphere into which they were injected. These axons exhibited remarkable arbors in the lateral geniculate nucleus, diffusely innervating the C-laminae and medial interlaminar nucleus, but, unlike all other X and Y arbors, they did not innervate the A-laminae at all. In addition to these qualitative observations, we analyzed a number of quantitative features of these axons in terms of numbers and distributions of terminal boutons. We found that Y arbors contained more boutons than did X arbors in both thalamus and midbrain. Also, for axons with receptive fields in the contralateral hemifield (all X and all but two Y axons), 90-95% of their boutons terminated in the lateral geniculate nucleus; the other two Y axons had more of their arbors located in midbrain.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / chemistry*
  • Cats / anatomy & histology*
  • Cats / metabolism
  • Efferent Pathways / chemistry
  • Efferent Pathways / ultrastructure
  • Horseradish Peroxidase
  • Lysine / analogs & derivatives
  • Mesencephalon / anatomy & histology*
  • Mesencephalon / chemistry
  • Microinjections
  • Nerve Endings / chemistry
  • Nerve Endings / ultrastructure
  • Retina / chemistry
  • Retina / ultrastructure*
  • Superior Colliculi / chemistry
  • Superior Colliculi / ultrastructure
  • Thalamus / anatomy & histology*
  • Thalamus / chemistry


  • Horseradish Peroxidase
  • biocytin
  • Lysine