Uniqueness of the S-cone pedicle in the human retina and consequences for color processing

J Comp Neurol. 1997 Sep 29;386(3):443-60. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1096-9861(19970929)386:3<443::aid-cne8>3.0.co;2-1.


The purpose of this study was to investigate more fully the shape and content of ribbons and synapses to second-order neurons in the short-wavelength cone (S-cone, blue cone) pedicle and to learn more concerning the uniqueness of the S-cone system in the primate retina. A piece of well-fixed peripheral human retina (10 mm, 35 degrees nasal to the fovea) was serially thick sectioned in the tangential plane from the level of the outer segments to the tops of the cone pedicles. Then serial electron microscope (EM) sections were collected through the whole depth of the pedicle-occupying region into the neuropil of the outer plexiform layer (OPL). The resultant EM micrograph montages of a large field of cone pedicles were perused, and S-cone pedicles were identified. Serial micrographs of a single S-cone pedicle, picked out of the montages, were digitized and reconstructed by computer three-dimensional methods. The S-cone pedicle arose from a slightly oblique axon and projected 0.5-1 microm more vitread in the OPL than other cone pedicles. It was bilobed in shape, with synaptic invaginations and ribbons in both lobes. No cone-contacting telodendria projected from the S-cone pedicle itself, but a small number of neighboring cones sent telodendria to its surface to make small gap junctions. Neighboring rod spherules also made small gap junctions. Four robust bipolar cell dendrites, most likely from S-cone-specific bipolar cells, made synapses at ribbons and basal (distal) junctions. A small number of other bipolar cell dendrites made narrow-cleft basal junction only. The majority of lateral elements were thought to be from HII horizontal cells, and a minority from HI horizontal cells. We conclude that the S-cone pedicle has a unique morphology and connectivity to second-order neurons that makes it quite different from the other two longer wavelength cone systems, and we speculate on the consequences for color processing in the visual system in general.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Color Perception / physiology*
  • Dendrites / physiology
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Models, Neurological
  • Models, Structural
  • Retinal Cone Photoreceptor Cells / cytology
  • Retinal Cone Photoreceptor Cells / physiology*
  • Retinal Cone Photoreceptor Cells / ultrastructure*
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Synapses / ultrastructure*