Horizontal cells in the cone-dominated tree shrew retina: morphology, photoreceptor contacts, and topographical distribution

J Neurosci. 1993 Aug;13(8):3628-46. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.13-08-03628.1993.


While most mammalian retinas are rod dominated, in the tree shrew retina 95% of the photoreceptors are cones. We studied three shrew horizontal cells to look for features associated with this unusual photoreceptor arrangement. The morphology of horizontal cells was revealed by intracellular injections of Lucifer yellow, and their photoreceptor contacts were assessed by light and electron microscopy. Horizontal cell topography was studied in material stained with a neurofilament antibody and with toluidine blue. The tree shrew has two types of horizontal cell that are basically the same as A- and B-type horizontal cells of other mammals. All the photoreceptor contacts of the larger, axonless, A-type cell and the dendritic contacts of the smaller, axon-bearing, B-type cell are with cones. Both types contact nearly all the cones in their dendritic field and both types synapse with both red and blue cones. There is no anatomical evidence for chromatic selectivity. The sparsely branched B-type horizontal cell axon probably contacts rods as in other mammals. The unusual features of the A-type cell are the profuse dendritic terminal arborizations and the large dendritic field size. These features may be related to the abundance of cones but do not justify the conclusion for a special type of horizontal cell as has previously been supposed. Both types of horizontal cell have a central-peripheral density gradient; at any location B-type cells are up to three times as numerous as A-type cells. There are detailed features of the distributions that differ from those of other mammalian horizontal cells. The density maximum of B-type cells is in inferior retina and roughly coincides with that of the cones; the A-type maximum is located more superiorly. Neither maximum is colocalized with the ganglion cell peak in the central area. The mosaic of B-type cells is much more regular than that of A-type cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biotin / analogs & derivatives
  • Cell Aggregation
  • Cell Count
  • Dendrites / physiology
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Intermediate Filaments / ultrastructure
  • Isoquinolines
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Photoreceptor Cells / cytology*
  • Retina / cytology*
  • Retina / physiology
  • Staining and Labeling
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Tolonium Chloride
  • Tupaiidae / anatomy & histology*


  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Isoquinolines
  • neurobiotin
  • Tolonium Chloride
  • Biotin
  • lucifer yellow