The dorsal raphe nucleus receives afferents from alpha-like retinal ganglion cells and intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells in the rat

Xiaotao Li, Chaoran Ren, Lu Huang, Bin Lin, Mingliang Pu, Gary E. Pickard, Kwok Fai So

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


PURPOSE. A retinal projection into the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN), namely, the retinoraphe projection, exists in many species. The rat is one of several species in which a retino-raphe projection has been described; however, the retinal ganglion cell (RGC) types that contribute to this pathway are unknown. METHODS. Retrograde tracing via cholera toxin subunit B (CTB) was used to reveal DRN- projecting RGCs in rats, combined with intracellular injection in vitro, melanopsin immunostaining in whole-mounted retinas, and serotonin immunostaining to define the DRN. We modified methods of CTB injection into DRN used previously in order to avoid possible contamination with other retinorecipient regions, particularly the superior colliculus (SC). RESULTS. The majority of DRN-projecting RGCs showed alpha-like morphology, and some CTB- positive RGCs were colabeled with melanopsin. Approximately 80% of the total population of CTB-labeled DRN-projecting RGCs was alpha-like cells including ON alpha cells and OFF alpha cells; these alpha-like cells were melanopsin immunonegative. Approximately 10% of the remaining DRN-projecting RGCs were melanopsin immunopositive, in which the M1 subtype of intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cell (ipRGC) provided the dominant projection of ipRGCs into DRN, with only few non-M1 ipRGCs involved. The DRN-projecting ipRGCs could be retrogradely labeled following tracer injection into all rostrocaudal aspects of the DRN. CONCLUSIONS. Both conventional RGCs with alpha-like morphology and melanopsin-expressing ipRGCs project into the rat DRN. Approximately 10% of DRN-projecting RGCs were colabeled with melanopsin, and the majority of these were the M1 subtype of ipRGCs. An ipRGC component of the retino-raphe projection may contribute to a sustained light-mediated modulation of DRN serotonin release.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8373-8381
Number of pages9
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Dorsal raphe nucleus
  • IpRGCs
  • Melanopsin
  • Retinal ganglion cell
  • Retinofugal projection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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