The distribution of ganglion cells in the retina of the silver lamprey,
Ichthyomyzon unicuspis, was revealed by retrograde labeling from the optic nerve with horseradish peroxidase (HRP) and fluorescent-labeled dextrans in live animals and with the fluorescent dye DiI in aldehyde-fixed tissue. The majority of ganglion cells (74%) termed the “outer ganglion cells,” are multipolar and are located at the vitread boundary of the inner nuclear layer. The remaining ganglion cells (26%), termed the “inner ganglion cells” are bipolar and are distributed in a sublamina within the inner plexiform layer. The dense, dendritic meshwork of the outer ganglion cells is largely restricted to the sclerad half of the inner plexiform layer with some cells possessing dendrites which pass through the inner nuclear layer to terminate within the outer plexiform layer. The dendrites of the inner ganglion cells form a thin, dendritic network apposing the inner limiting membrane. Axons from both populations of ganglion cells originate from dendrites or the soma and form fascicles lying adjacent to the outer ganglion cell somata.
Retinopetal fibers, originating from bilaterally distributed neurons of the tegmental midbrain, were thin and varicose and ran parallel to the ganglion cell axons to terminate either with a varicose enlargement or a few short sidebranches in the sclerad third of the inner plexiform layer. The unusual organization of the lamprey retina and outgroup comparison with hagfish suggests that agnathans share a presumably primitive type of retinal ganglion cell organization compared to that of gnathostomes.