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Ancient origin of the rod bipolar cell pathway in the vertebrate retina

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Nat Ecol Evol. 2024 Apr 16. doi: 10.1038/s41559-024-02404-w. Online ahead of print.


Vertebrates rely on rod photoreceptors for vision in low-light conditions. The specialized downstream circuit for rod signalling, called the primary rod pathway, is well characterized in mammals, but circuitry for rod signalling in non-mammals is largely unknown. Here we demonstrate that the mammalian primary rod pathway is conserved in zebrafish, which diverged from extant mammals ~400 million years ago. Using single-cell RNA sequencing, we identified two bipolar cell types in zebrafish that are related to mammalian rod bipolar cell (RBCs), the only bipolar type that directly carries rod signals from the outer to the inner retina in the primary rod pathway. By combining electrophysiology, histology and ultrastructural reconstruction of the zebrafish RBCs, we found that, similar to mammalian RBCs, both zebrafish RBC types connect with all rods in their dendritic territory and provide output largely onto amacrine cells. The wiring pattern of the amacrine cells postsynaptic to one RBC type is strikingly similar to that of mammalian RBCs and their amacrine partners, suggesting that the cell types and circuit design of the primary rod pathway emerged before the divergence of teleost fish and mammals. The second RBC type, which forms separate pathways, was either lost in mammals or emerged in fish.

PMID:38627529 | DOI:10.1038/s41559-024-02404-w

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