Rat retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) are generated between embryonic day (E) 13 and E19. Retinal axons first reach the superior colliculus at E16/16.5 but the time of arrival of axons from late-born RGCs is unknown. This study examined (i) whether there is a correlation between RGC genesis and the timing of retinotectal innervation and (ii) when axons of late-born RGCs reach the superior colliculus. Pregnant Wistar rats were injected intraperitoneally with bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) on E16, E18 or E19. Pups from these litters received unilateral superior colliculus injections of fluorogold (FG) at ages between postnatal (P) day P0 and P6, and were perfused 1-2 days later. RGCs in 3 rats from each BrdU litter were labelled in adulthood by placing FG onto transected optic nerve. Retinas were cryosectioned and the number of FG, BrdU and double-labelled (FG(+)/BrdU(+)) RGCs quantified. In the E16 group, the proportion of FG-labelled RGCs that were BrdU(+) did not vary with age, indicating that axons from these cells had reached the superior colliculus by P0/P1. In contrast, for the smaller cohorts of RGCs born on E18 or E19, the proportion of BrdU(+) cells that were FG(+) increased significantly after birth; axons from most RGCs born on E19 were not retrogradely FG-labelled until P4/P5. Thus there is a correlation between birthdate and innervation in rat retinotectal pathways. Furthermore, compared to the earliest born RGCs, axons from late-born RGCs take about three times longer to reach the superior colliculus. Later-arriving axons presumably encounter comparatively different growth terrains en route and eventually innervate more differentiated target structures.
Dallimore, E. J., Cui, Q., Beazley, L. D., & Harvey, A. (2002). Postnatal innervation of the rat superior colliculus by axons of late-born retinal ganglion cells. European Journal of Neuroscience, 16, 1295-1304. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1460-9568.2002.02178.x