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Keywords:

  • albino;
  • protein kinase C;
  • retina;
  • rod;
  • rod bipolar cell

Abstract

The albino retina is abnormal. The central region is under-developed and some cell populations are reduced or increased in number. Not least of these anomalies is the deficit in the rod population in hypopigmented rodents and carnivores. Given this abnormality we have examined the distribution of rod bipolar cells in albino rats to determine whether this subsequent stage in the rod pathway is similarly disrupted. A monoclonal antibody to protein kinase C was used to determine the distribution of rod bipolar cells in juvenile and adult pigmented and albino rats. Immunoreactive rod bipolar cells and their processes were counted in transverse sections passing through both the central and peripheral retina. The mean densities of immunoreactive cells were significantly reduced in albino retinas at both juvenile (postnatal day 15) and adult stages, in the former by 14% and the latter by 9%. This was evident across the entire central-to-peripheral extent of the retina. The reduced rod photoreceptor population found in albinos appears therefore to be consequential for the magnitude of their major target population, rod bipolar cells. The decrease in the rod bipolar population indicates a change in retinal cytoarchitecture and implies a disruption of functional organization of the albino retina, especially that underlying the scotopic channel. This, coupled with observations that some other retinal interneuronal populations may be disrupted, implies disordered retinal processing in albinos and emphasizes the likelihood that abnormal visual function in albinos may be as much a result of anomalous retinal circuitry as of the known photoreceptor deficit or chiasmatic misrouting.