The turtle retina has been shown to have a variety of different morphological ganglion cell types as well as distinct physiological ganglion cell types. The major projection of the retina to the brain in nonmammalian vertebrates is to the optic tectum. In this study, we address the question of which retinal ganglion cell types project to the optic tectum in the turtle.
Fluorescent rhodamine-labeled microspheres were used to trace the retinal ganglion cell projection to the superficial layers of the optic tectum. The fluorescent ganglion cell somata, retrogradely marked by transport from the contralateral optic tectum, were impaled with micropipettes containing rhodamine-horseradish peroxidase solution and this dye was iontophoresed into the cells under visual control.
Most of the morphological ganglion cell types described in Golgi studies (Kolb, 1982; Kolb et al., 1988) were stained. Thus, the small cell types G1, G2, G3, G5, G6, and G7; the medium-sized types G10, G11, G12, G13, and G14; and the large-sized types G15, G16, G19, G20, and G21 project to the optic tectum in the turtle. We have added a new type, G2a, which proves to have some differences from the original G2 in branching pattern. We were unable to stain the small type G4, the medium-sized types G8 and G9, and the large cell types G17 and G18; this suggests that they might not project to the superficial layers of the dorsolateral optic tectum, at least, in the turtle.