Neuronal chains between the retina and the pineal body were investigated. Transneuronal tracers, retrograde spreading pseudorabies virus (labeled with green fluorescent protein, memGreen-RV) and virus spreading in both ante- and retrograde directions (labeled with red fluorescent protein, Ka-VHS-mCherry-A-RV) were injected into the right eye of vitreous body of intact or bilaterally sympathectomized Wistar male rats. Intact golden hamsters also received memGreen-RV into the eye and Ka-VHS-mCherry-A-RV into the pineal body. Four-five days later the animals were sacrificed. Frozen sections were prepared from the removed structures. In intact rats memGreen-RV resulted in green fluorescent labeling in the trigeminal and the superior cervical ganglia, the lateral horn of the spinal cord, the paraventricular and the suprachiasmatic nuclei, the perifornical region, the ventrolateral medulla, the locus ceruleus, and the raphe nuclei. In sympathectomized rats the labeling was missing from the brainstem but further existed in the hypothalamus. This observation indicates that the hypothalamic labeling is not mediated by the sympathetic system. One labeled neuron in the pineal body was only observed in 2/13 rats. It was independent from the sympathectomy. When the animals received Ka-VHS-mCherry-A-RV the distribution of the labeling was very similar to that of the intact group receiving retrograde virus. In golden hamsters the memGreen-RV labeled structures were seen in similar places as in rats, but virus labeled nerve cell bodies were always seen in the pineal body. Injection of Ka-VHS-mCherry-A-RV into the pineal body of hamsters resulted in labeling of the retina at both sides. It was concluded that the retinopetal neuronal chain in golden hamsters is always present but in rats it is stochastic.
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