Canine Retina Has a Primate Fovea-Like Bouquet of Cone Photoreceptors Which Is Affected by Inherited Macular Degenerations
Medicine and Health Sciences
Retinal areas of specialization confer vertebrates with the ability to scrutinize corresponding regions of their visual field with greater resolution. A highly specialized area found in haplorhine primates (including humans) is the fovea centralis which is defined by a high density of cone photoreceptors connected individually to interneurons, and retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) that are offset to form a pit lacking retinal capillaries and inner retinal neurons at its center. In dogs, a local increase in RGC density is found in a topographically comparable retinal area defined as the area centralis. While the canine retina is devoid of a foveal pit, no detailed examination of the photoreceptors within the area centralis has been reported. Using both in vivo and ex vivo imaging, we identified a retinal region with a primate fovea-like cone photoreceptor density but without the excavation of the inner retina. Similar anatomical structure observed in rare human subjects has been named fovea-plana. In addition, dogs with mutations in two different genes, that cause macular degeneration in humans, developed earliest disease at the newly-identified canine fovea-like area. Our results challenge the dogma that within the phylogenetic tree of mammals, haplorhine primates with a fovea are the sole lineage in which the retina has a central bouquet of cones. Furthermore, a predilection for naturally-occurring retinal degenerations to alter this cone-enriched area fills the void for a clinically-relevant animal model of human macular degenerations.