Evidence from several sources indicates that the photoreceptors of rabbit retina include rods, green cones and blue cones, and that blue-green color opponency occurs in select retinal ganglion cells. One of us (Famiglietti) has identified wide-field cone bipolar cells as probable blue-cone-selective bipolars, and type C horizontal cells as possibly connected to blue cones. We wished to extend the analysis of blue cone pathways in rabbit retina and to characterize the topographic distribution of blue and green cones. Two monoclonal antibodies raised against chicken visual pigments are reported to label medium- and long-wavelength cones (COS-1) and short-wavelength cones (OS-2) in all mammalian retinas studied thus far (Szél and colleagues). Using selective labeling with these two antibodies and a nonselective method in nasal and temporal halves of the same retinas, we have found that densities of photoreceptors vary systematically, depending upon the size of the eye and age of the animal. In ‘standard’ New Zealand rabbits of 2–3 kg (2–3 months old), rods reached a peak density of about 300,000/mm2 just dorsal to the visual streak, while cones exhibit peak density at mid-visual streak of about 18,000/mm2. Published measurements of visual acuity in rabbit are less than predicted by this calculation. The ratio of cones to rods is significantly higher in ventral retina, where the density of cones declines to a plateau of 10,000–12,000/mm2, when compared to dorsal retina, where cones are uniformly distributed at a density of about 7000/mm2. The density of OS-2 labeled (presumably “blue”) cones is uniformly low, 1000–1500/mm2, in a wide expanse that includes dorsal retina, the visual streak, and much of ventral retina, except for a region of higher density along the vertical midline. We confirm that there is a far ventral horizontal region near the perimeter that is populated exclusively by a high density (about 13,000/mm2) of OS-2-positive cones (Juliusson and colleagues). This region does not extend to the ventral retinal margin, however, where cone density drops precipitously. Transitional zones between COS-1 and OS-2 labeling, in a region of relatively high and uniform cone density, where sums of COS-1 and OS-2 labeling are higher than expected and in which weakly and strongly labeled cones are intermixed, raise questions about the identities of the visual pigment epitopes, the possibility of double labeling, and therefore the possibility of dual expression of pigments in single cones. The “inverted- T -shaped” topography of higher density OS-2 labeling raises doubts about the significance of a ventral concentration of blue cones for visual function in rabbit retina.
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