Distribution and structure of efferent synapses in the chicken retina

S. H. Lindstrom, N. Nacsa, T. Blankenship, Paul G FitzGerald, C. Weller, D. I. Vaney, Martin Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The visual system of birds includes an efferent projection from a visual area, the isthmo-optic nucleus in the midbrain, back to the retina. Using a combination of anterograde labeling of efferent fibers, reconstruction of dye-filled neurons, NADPH-diaphorase staining, and transmission electron microscopy, we have examined the distribution of efferent fibers and their synaptic structures in the chicken retina. We show that efferent fibers terminate strictly within the ventral retina. In two completely mapped retinas, only 2 fibers from a total of 15,359 terminated in the dorsal retina. The major synapse made by each efferent fiber is with a single efferent target amacrine cell (TC). This synapse consists of 5-25 boutons of 2 μm diameter, each with multiple active zones, pressed into the TC soma or synapsing with a basketwork of rudimentary TC dendrites in the inner nuclear layer (INL). This basketwork, which is sheathed by Muller cell processes, defines a private neuropil in the INL within which TCs were also seen to receive input from retinal neurons. In addition to the major synapse, efferent fibers typically produce several very thin processes that terminate nearby in single small boutons and for which the soma of a local amacrine cell is one of the likely postsynaptic partners. A minority of efferent fibers also give rise to a thicker process, terminating in a strongly diaphorase-positive ball about 5 μm in diameter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)215-226
Number of pages12
JournalVisual Neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2009


  • Amacrine cell
  • Avian
  • Centrifugal visual system
  • Isthmo-optic nucleus
  • Retinopetal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems
  • Physiology


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