• retinal ganglion cell;
  • optic nerve;
  • amacrine cell;
  • horizontal cell;
  • neurotransmitter


The goal of this study was to determine the pattern of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) expression in the retina and optic nerve of the zebrafish (Brachydanio rerio) during embryonic development. Zebrafish embryos were fixed at intervals between 1 and 4 days postfertilization, and semithin plastic sections were prepared for postembedding immunocytochemistry with antisera, against GABA. Sections were also prepared from several adult zebrafish eyes for comparison. GABA immunoreactivity first appeared in the optic nerve at 2 days postfertilization, and by 2.5 days the inner nuclear layer (INL), inner plexiform layer (IPL), retinal ganglion cell layer, and optic nerve were all positive for GABA. The GABA expression in the retinal ganglion cell layer and optic nerve was transient, however, and these structures were largely unlabeled by 4 days postfertilization. The pattern of GABA immunoreactivity at 4 days resembled that seen in the adult zebrafish: A large population of presumptive amacrine cells was labeled at the base of the INL, and the IPL was positive for GABA, as were occasional cells in the ganglion cell layer. Horizontal cells, particularly at the retinal margins, were also GABA positive beginning at about 3 days postfertilization. The transient expression of GABA in retinal ganglion cells and their axons during the period when synaptic contacts are being established both within the retina and between the retina and central targets suggests that GABA may have a role in the development of this system, in addition to serving as a classical neurotransmitter. © 1994 Wiley-Liss, Inc.