Retrograde transneuronal degeneration of optic fibers and their terminals in lateral geniculate nucleus of Rhesus monkey

Dikran S. Horoupian, Bernardino Ghetti, Henryk M. Wiśniewski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Scopus citations


In Rhesus monkey, the optic nerve fibers and their boutons were studied at 5, 14, 49, 79 and 180 days following ablation of the occipital lobe. Retrograde transneuronal degeneration in optic nerve terminals appeared as early as 14 days but lacked a uniform pattern. In some terminals, mitochondrial changes and/or smooth membranous proliferation were common. In others, depletion of synaptic vesicles was more pronounced. Rarely, these terminals were seen to undergo bulbous enlargement and to contain stacks of neurofilaments. Lamellated osmiophilic profiles and dense bodies together with glycogen particles were often encountered in late stages of degeneration. This irregular pattern of degeneration contrasted with the uniform filamentous change that the terminals are known to undergo when the optic nerves are severed. The reason for the lack of a consistent and synchronous degenerative pattern was attributed, mainly, to the difference in rate and severity of axonal reaction in geniculate neurons. Six months after the occipital lobectomy, swollen nerve fibers larger than the largest normal fibers were present, both in the geniculate nucleus and in the optic nerves proper. They displayed diverse changes and contained complex structures. They were similar to the altered fibers described in certain toxic neuropathies. The pathomechanism of retrograde transneuronal degeneration in retinal fibers was not clear; however, the phenomenon of 'dying-back' was invoked to explain this type of degeneration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)257-275
Number of pages19
JournalBrain research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 30 1973
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology

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