Molecular Fingerprinting of On–Off Direction-Selective Retinal Ganglion Cells Across Species and Relevance to Primate Visual Circuits
The ability to detect moving objects is an ethologically salient function. Direction-selective neurons have been identified in the retina, thalamus, and cortex of many species, but their homology has remained unclear. For instance, it is unknown whether direction-selective retinal ganglion cells (DSGCs) exist in primates and, if so, whether they are the equivalent to mouse and rabbit DSGCs. Here, we used a molecular/circuit approach in both sexes to address these issues. In mice, we identify the transcription factor Satb2 (special AT-rich sequence-binding protein 2) as a selective marker for three RGC types: On–Off DSGCs encoding motion in either the anterior or posterior direction, a newly identified type of Off-DSGC, and an Off-sustained RGC type. In rabbits, we find that expression of Satb2 is conserved in On–Off DSGCs; however, it has evolved to include On–Off DSGCs encoding upward and downward motion in addition to anterior and posterior motion. Next, we show that macaque RGCs express Satb2 most likely in a single type. We used rabies virus-based circuit-mapping tools to reveal the identity of macaque Satb2-RGCs and discovered that their dendritic arbors are relatively large and monostratified. Together, these data indicate Satb2-expressing On–Off DSGCs are likely not present in the primate retina. Moreover, if DSGCs are present in the primate retina, it is unlikely that they express Satb2.