Development of Cell Density Gradients in the Retinal Ganglion Cell Layer of Amphibians and Marsupials
A feature of the mature vertebrate retina is the nonuniform distribution of ganglion cells. High ganglion cell densities in the temporally situated area centralis and in the nasotemporally aligned visual streak subserve high activity vision in the frontal field and along the horizon. We have described the different developmental strategies adopted in amphibia and in mammals to form an area centralis and visual streak from an essentially uniform cell distribution. To facilitate the mammalian studies, we chose to study marsupials since they are born at a much more immature stage than eutherians.
In frogs, cell division continues at the retinal circumference throughout life, adding cells to each retinal layer. During the formation of cell density gradients, more cells are added at the nasal and temporal poles than elsewhere, suggesting that high cell densities are generated by differential cell addition. Dying cells have not been observed during this process, suggesting that cell death does not play a part in shaping live cell density gradients. Continued areal growth reduces cell densities throughout life.
By contrast, in mammals, all ganglion cells are generated in an early phase of cell division well before the area centralis and visual streak are present. As these specializations appear, ganglion cell numbers fall by approximately one third. Dying cells are seen and are present in greater numbers in regions destined to become of low cell density than elsewhere, indicating that cell death may play a role in the formation of live cell topography. Asymmetric retinal expansion may also be important. A second phase of mitosis adds cells to the inner and outer nuclear layers at the time cell density gradients become pronounced in the ganglion cell layer. This later phase of cell generation ceases first in areas adjacent to the presumptive area centralis. Continued cell addition to peripheral retina would differentially expand the retina and may thereby reduce cell densities more in those parts of the ganglion cell layer outside the area centralis and visual streak. However, even after the completion of mitosis and cell death, ganglion cell density gradients are not as steep as in the adult. During the later stages, ganglion cell topography must therefore be accentuated by other factors of retinal growth such as changes in the size and shape of cells.
KeywordsGanglion Cell Retinal Ganglion Cell Optic Nerve Head Ganglion Cell Layer Outer Nuclear Layer
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