Melanopsin retinal ganglion cells are not labeled in Thy-1 YFP-16 transgenic mice

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Abstract

Retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) that express the photopigment melanopsin (mRGCs) are photosensitive and initiate the non-image-forming pathway, where the majority of their axons terminate in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). RGCs only make up approximately half of the cells in the ganglion cell layer of the retina; therefore, it is important to be able to distinguish them from other cell types. The transgenic Thy-1 YFP mouse line 16 (Thy-1 YFP-16) expresses yellow-fluorescent protein (YFP) in projection neurons, including RGCs. Our objective was to determine whether mRGCs are labeled with YFP in Thy-1 YFP-16 transgenic mice. Paraformaldehyde-fixed retinal wholemounts and frozen vertical sections were prepared from Thy-1 YFP-16 mice and fluorescently labeled with rabbit anti-melanopsin and guinea-pig anti-RNA binding protein with multiple splicing to identify mRGCs and total RGCs, respectively. Thy-1 YFP-16 mouse brains were sectioned coronally and imaged to view RGC axonal projections to the SCN. Confocal images of retinal preparations show that the majority (∼89%) of mRGCs are not YFP-positive in Thy-1 YFP-16 mice, where ∼11% expressed a weak fluorescent signal. In addition, there are almost no YFP-positive axons present in the SCN of coronal brain sections. We conclude that the majority of mRGC somas and axons are not labeled with YFP in the transgenic Thy-1 YFP-16 mouse line; therefore, this mouse model may not suitable for research involving mRGC visual pathways.

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