The organization, morphological characteristics, and synaptic structure of photoreceptors in the adult zebrafish retina were studied using light and electron microscopy. Adult photoreceptors show a typical ordered tier arrangement with rods easily distinguished from cones based on outer segment (OS) morphology. Both rods and cones contain mitochondria within the inner segments (IS), including the large, electron-dense megamitochondria previously described (Kim et al.) Four major ultrastructural differences were observed between zebrafish rods and cones: (1) the membranes of cone lamellar disks showed a wider variety of relationships to the plasma membrane than those of rods, (2) cone pedicles typically had multiple synaptic ribbons, while rod spherules had 1-2 ribbons, (3) synaptic ribbons in rod spherules were ~2 times longer than ribbons in cone pedicles, and (4) rod spherules had a more electron-dense cytoplasm than cone pedicles. Examination of photoreceptor terminals identified four synaptic relationships at cone pedicles: (1) invaginating contacts postsynaptic to cone ribbons forming dyad, triad, and quadrad synapses, (2) presumed gap junctions connecting adjacent postsynaptic processes invaginating into cone terminals, (3) basal junctions away from synaptic ribbons, and (4) gap junctions between adjacent photoreceptor terminals. More vitread and slightly farther removed from photoreceptor terminals, extracellular microtubule-like structures were identified in association with presumed horizontal cell processes in the OPL. These findings, the first to document the ultrastructure of the distal retina in adult zebrafish, indicate that zebrafish photoreceptors have many characteristics similar to other species, further supporting the use of zebrafish as a model for the vertebrate visual system. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.
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