Development of outer segments and synapses in the rabbit retina

J Comp Neurol. 1977 Oct 1;175(3):253-74. doi: 10.1002/cne.901750302.


The peripheral retina of rabbits aged 0 to 60 days was studied by electron microscopy. Ribbon and conventional synaptogenesis was studied with serial sections, and the density of synapses of the inner plexiform layer was measured on large (1,500 micrometer 2) montages. Photoreceptor and bipolar ribbon synapses seem to develop similarly in that processes of the prospective dyad or triad contact the presynaptic ribbon-containing terminal one at a time. No statistically significant difference in the lengths of ribbon lamellae was found at 11 and 30 days. Conventional synapses appear to result from the aggregation of synaptic vesicles on one side of junctions that first existed as symmetrical membrane densities without vesicles. The length of the synaptic membrane specialization constant between 0 and 30 days. The density of inner plexiform layer conventional synapses remains at a low and roughly constant level from 0 to 9 days, after which there is an abrupt increase to a plateau at about 20 days. After nine days the density of ribbon synapses also increases, with an initially steep time course similar to that of conventional synapses. All subcategories of synapse studied (amacrine-to-amacrine, amacrine-to-bipolar, serial, and reciprocal) participate in the general increase between 9 and 20 days. Functional circuits of the inner plexiform layer thus seem to be assembled primarily during the second and third weeks of life.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn / growth & development
  • Photoreceptor Cells / ultrastructure
  • Rabbits
  • Retina / growth & development
  • Retina / ultrastructure*
  • Synapses / ultrastructure*
  • Synaptic Membranes / ultrastructure
  • Synaptic Vesicles / ultrastructure