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The availability of naturally occurring and transgenic retinal mutants has made the mouse an attractive experimental model to address questions regarding photoentrainment of circadian rhythms. However, very little is known about the retinal cells and the retinal projections to the nuclei of the murine circadian timing system. Furthermore, the effect of inherited retinal degeneration on these projections is not understood. In this report, we have used pseudorabies virus as a neuroanatomical tract tracer in mice to address a series of questions: Which retinal cells mediate circadian responses to light? What is the nature of the retinohypothalamic projection? What is the impact of the inherited retinal disorder, retinal degenerate (rd/rd), on the structures of the photoentrainment pathway? Our results show that a class ofretinal ganglion cell, morphologically similar to the type III ganglion cells of the rat, appears to project to central circadian structures of the mouse. They are few in number and sparsely distributed throughout the retina. The low number and broad distribution of these specialized retinal ganglion cells may be an adaptive mechanism to integrate environmental irradiance without compromising the spatial resolution required for vision. In addition, viral infection of conelike and rodlike photoreceptors and amacrinelike cells suggest that these cells may mediate or contribute to circadian responses to light. Inherited retinal degeneration has no obvious effect on the anatomy of the retinal cells or their projections to the circadian axis. These anatomical findings are consistent with our previous findings showing that aged rd/rd mice are capable of regulating their circadian rhythms by light with unattenuated sensitivity.


Journal article


J Comp Neurol

Publication Date





417 - 439


Animals, Axonal Transport, Circadian Rhythm, Herpesvirus 1, Suid, Immunohistochemistry, Light, Male, Mice, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Mice, Mutant Strains, Mice, Transgenic, Rats, Retina, Retinal Cone Photoreceptor Cells, Retinal Degeneration, Retinal Ganglion Cells, Retinal Rod Photoreceptor Cells