Poultry science

Inner retinal cell development is impaired in Smoky Joe chickens.

PMID 23571342


Many different components of the retina can be affected by inherited degenerative diseases causing blindness. Currently, 5 different mutant strains of chicken have already been studied as potential models for inherited retinal degeneration; however, the potential for the blind strain of White Leghorns, called Smoky Joe (SJ), as a model remains unknown. Ocular symptoms observed within homozygous SJ birds show the birds have varying levels of blindness at hatch and by 8 wk posthatch are completely blind, but details about the development of the blindness are unclear (Salter et al., 1997). The objective of this study was to characterize the retinal development of blind and sighted SJ chicks during embryogenesis, and to monitor the numbers of the retinal cells with cell-type-specific markers. Blind SJ chicks showed less retinal cells throughout embryogenesis compared with sighted SJ chicks (P < 0.0001). Based on the histological analysis, it was determined that amacrine cells within the inner nuclear layer were the most affected cell type, showing lower numbers in the blind SJ compared with the sighted; amacrine cell development was also delayed in the blind birds, beginning 2 d later than in sighted SJ birds. Photoreceptors were also scarcely detected within the blind SJ and potentially may be an additional target of developmental impairment. Further analysis on posthatch SJ will aid in determining degenerative characteristics of a fully developed retina and its cells.