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Journal of Neural Transplantation and Plasticity
Volume 5, Issue 1, Pages 17-29

Ultrastructural Circuitry in Retinal Cell Transplants to Rat Retina

1The Schepens Eye Research Institute and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
2Department of Ophthalmology, University of Lund, Lund S-221 85, Sweden
3Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences and Department of Anatomical Sciences & Neurobiology, University of Louisville Medical School, Louisville, KY, USA

Copyright © 1994 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The development of five transplants of fetal retinal tissue to adult rat eyes was examined with the electron microscope. The transplants were of 9 to 10 weeks total age after conception in four cases and 20 weeks in one case. They were at stage E15 when transplanted. Transplants developed in both the epiretinal and subretinal spaces.

The transplants were heterogeneously developed with some parts showing almost normal differentiation and others little. Subretinal transplants examined in this study were more developed than epiretinal grafts. Photoreceptor cells developed both inner and outer segments. Their synaptic terminals possessed output ribbon synapses with postsynaptic processes similar to those seen in normal retinas. In regions corresponding to the inner plexiform layer, the adult complement of synapses was seen, including advanced features such as serial synapses as well as reciprocal synapses at bipolar cell dyads. Incompletely differentiated synapses of both the amacrine and bipolar cell types were often observed, especially in the rat epiretinal transplants. Ganglion cell processes could not be identified with certainty.

Although transplant cells were adjacent to host photoreceptor cells and pigment epithelium, obvious specializations or interactions were not observed. The experiments suggest that embryonic rat retinal cell transplants develop most or perhaps all of the structural components and neuronal circuitry necessary to transduce light and process some visual information.