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Event: 1877

Key Event Title

A descriptive phrase which defines a discrete biological change that can be measured. More help

Altered, retinal layer structure

Short name
The KE short name should be a reasonable abbreviation of the KE title and is used in labelling this object throughout the AOP-Wiki. More help
Altered, retinal layer structure
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Biological Context

Structured terms, selected from a drop-down menu, are used to identify the level of biological organization for each KE. More help
Level of Biological Organization

Organ term

The location/biological environment in which the event takes place.The biological context describes the location/biological environment in which the event takes place.  For molecular/cellular events this would include the cellular context (if known), organ context, and species/life stage/sex for which the event is relevant. For tissue/organ events cellular context is not applicable.  For individual/population events, the organ context is not applicable.  Further information on Event Components and Biological Context may be viewed on the attached pdf. More help
Organ term

Key Event Components

The KE, as defined by a set structured ontology terms consisting of a biological process, object, and action with each term originating from one of 14 biological ontologies (Ives, et al., 2017; Biological process describes dynamics of the underlying biological system (e.g., receptor signalling).Biological process describes dynamics of the underlying biological system (e.g., receptor signaling).  The biological object is the subject of the perturbation (e.g., a specific biological receptor that is activated or inhibited). Action represents the direction of perturbation of this system (generally increased or decreased; e.g., ‘decreased’ in the case of a receptor that is inhibited to indicate a decrease in the signaling by that receptor).  Note that when editing Event Components, clicking an existing Event Component from the Suggestions menu will autopopulate these fields, along with their source ID and description.  To clear any fields before submitting the event component, use the 'Clear process,' 'Clear object,' or 'Clear action' buttons.  If a desired term does not exist, a new term request may be made via Term Requests.  Event components may not be edited; to edit an event component, remove the existing event component and create a new one using the terms that you wish to add.  Further information on Event Components and Biological Context may be viewed on the attached pdf. More help
Process Object Action
retina layer formation retina morphological change

Key Event Overview

AOPs Including This Key Event

All of the AOPs that are linked to this KE will automatically be listed in this subsection. This table can be particularly useful for derivation of AOP networks including the KE.Clicking on the name of the AOP will bring you to the individual page for that AOP. More help
AOP Name Role of event in AOP Point of Contact Author Status OECD Status
TPOi retinal layer structure KeyEvent Lucia Vergauwen (send email) Open for citation & comment Under Review

Taxonomic Applicability

Latin or common names of a species or broader taxonomic grouping (e.g., class, order, family) that help to define the biological applicability domain of the KE.In many cases, individual species identified in these structured fields will be those for which the strongest evidence used in constructing the AOP was available in relation to this KE. More help
Term Scientific Term Evidence Link
zebrafish Danio rerio High NCBI

Life Stages

An indication of the the relevant life stage(s) for this KE. More help
Life stage Evidence
Embryo High
Larvae High

Sex Applicability

An indication of the the relevant sex for this KE. More help
Term Evidence
Unspecific Moderate

Key Event Description

A description of the biological state being observed or measured, the biological compartment in which it is measured, and its general role in the biology should be provided. More help

The anatomy and histology of the eye are highly conserved among vertebrates. The cornea and lens refract and focus light onto the posterior chamber of the eye, the vitreous cavity, which is covered by the retina. The retina consists of three specialised layers of cells, the outermost of which is formed by photoreceptors that absorb light and transmit the subsequent neural signal to the innermost layers, which consist of neurons specialised in processing and transmitting this neural signal (Wässle and Riemann, 1978; Cameron and Carney, 2000 ; Rockhill et al, 2000; Fadool, 2003). The neurons of the innermost layer converge to form the optic nerve, which transmits visual information to the brain (Gestri et al., 2012). The retina has different types of photoreceptors, the cones, which are responsible for colour vision, and the rods, which enable vision in the dark or in very low light conditions. In adults, cones are distributed in the retina in a precise and very regular arrangement, forming a photoreceptor mosaic. The precise spatiotemporal pattern of maturation of cones may affect the organization of this mosaic, and THs appear to play a role in the coordination of this maturation process (Suzuki et al., 2013). In the fish retina, this arrangement is most evident in the outer nuclear layer where the position of each cone subtype is precisely arranged relative to the others (Fadool, 2003; Robinson et al., 1993) resulting in a highly ordered crystalline-like mosaic. 

The retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) is important to maintain a healthy and functional retina (Strauss 2005). The strong connection between the RPE cells with the tight junction, creates a blood-retinal barrier to mediate the directional transport of ions, water and nutrients while removing waste products. Another key function of the RPE is to absorb excess light energy to protect the neural retina from phototoxicity (Plafker 2012). Phagocytosis of spilled photoreceptor outer segments (Lister 2002) is another function of the RPE to maintain balanced photoreceptor growth, which is important for their physiological function.

Studies that detect and measure altered retinal layer structure after exposure to THs or endocrine disruptors show, for example, altered cone cell number (Allison et al., 2006; Houbrechts et al., 2016; Vancamp et al., 2019), altered retinal cell number (Dong et al., 2014), or a general alteration of retinal morphology (Gamborino et al., 2001; Houbrechts et al., 2016; Komoike et al., 2013; Li et al., 2012; Reider & Connaughton, 2014), alteration of the RPE      (Baumann et al., 2016), abnormal cone differentiation (Duval & Allison, 2018; Suzuki et al., 2013; Viets et al., 2016) or prevention of the opsin switch (Gan & Flamarique, 2010; Raine & Hawryshyn, 2009). Especially the TH receptor TRβ seems to be a key regulator by determining the expression of photoreceptor development in the retina (Ng et al., 2010; Suzuki et al., 2013; Deveau et al., 2019, 2020).

How It Is Measured or Detected

A description of the type(s) of measurements that can be employed to evaluate the KE and the relative level of scientific confidence in those measurements.These can range from citation of specific validated test guidelines, citation of specific methods published in the peer reviewed literature, or outlines of a general protocol or approach (e.g., a protein may be measured by ELISA). Do not provide detailed protocols. More help

For assessment of eye structure and layers, mostly simple morphometric analyses based on histological sections are sufficient. This can either be electron microscopy for subcellular changes, or normal light microscopy for cellular changes. Specific antibody staining might help to identify the different retinal layers and photoreceptor types, but usually, they are easily distinguishable by normal histological staining (e.g. HE staining). 

Measurement of cell layer diameter is the most popular and simple method to assess changes in eye structure and layers. Moreover, measurement of the pigmentation grade of the retinal pigment epithelium can be used to assess structural changes. Moreover, semi-quantitative assessment of severity grades of morphological changes can be assessed.

(reviewed in Chen 2020)

Domain of Applicability

A description of the scientific basis for the indicated domains of applicability and the WoE calls (if provided).  More help

Taxonomic applicability: In general, the eye structure is very conserved among vertebrates, but some differences exist with regard to shape and expression of the different retinal layers. Fig. 1 (from Richardson 2012) demonstrates the histology of the human vs the zebrafish eye. As in humans, the mature zebrafish retina consists of three nuclear layers separated by two plexiform layers. The photoreceptor rod and cone nuclei are located in the outer nuclear layer; the amacrine, horizontal, and Müller glial cell bodies are found in the inner nuclear layer and the ganglion cell bodies are placed in the ganglion cell layer. The plexiform layers connect these layers. In contrast to zebrafish, the human retina lacks UV-sensitive cones. 

Other structural differences between species are mostly related to their lifestyle (e.g. nocturnal vs diurnal) (Bibliowicz 2011) and cannot be generalized for specific vertebrate classes.

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Automatisch generierte Beschreibung

Life-stage applicability: Eye structure differs between life stages, as the different retinal layers do not develop at the same time and the eye itself grows with the organism. Eye development in zebrafish closely resembles the one in humans and other vertebrates. The eye develops from three different embryological tissues that form the specific structures of the eye, starting with the optic vesicle at 16 hpf, which further develops into the two-layered optic cup composed of the retinal neuroepithelium and pigmented epithelium until 20 hpf. Lens development begins as a lens placode that forms a solid lens mass by 22 hpf. Afterwards, the neuroectodermal layers of the optic vesicle invaginate ventrally by 24 hpf. By 48 hpf, zebrafish eye morphogenesis is almost complete with only retinal neurogenesis continuing. Retinal pigment epithelium flattening and final differentiation occurs around 27 hpf (Moreno-Marmol and others 2018). By 60 hpf, the different layers of the retina can be distinguished (Morris and Fadool 2005; Schmitt and Dowling 1999). Thereafter, further differentiation and maturation of the layers and cell types continues (Raymond and others 1995). For example, rods continue to mature until around 20 dpf (Morris and Fadool 2005). Impacts on retinal layer structure have been reported at 48, 66, 72, 96 and 120 hpf during zebrafish embryo-eleutheroembryo development (Baumann and others 2016; Komoike and others 2013; Reider and Connaughton 2014). Since the term 'eleutheroembryo' (stage starting at hatching and ending with free-feeding) is not available, the terms 'embryo' and 'larvae' were selected to reflect this.

Sex applicability: Zebrafish are undifferentiated gonochorists since both sexes initially develop an immature ovary (Maack and Segner, 2003). Immature ovary development progresses until approximately the onset of the third week. Later, in female fish immature ovaries continue to develop further, while male fish undergo transformation of ovaries into testes. Final transformation into testes varies among male individuals, however finishes usually around 6 weeks post fertilization. Effects on retinal layers during early development are therefore expected to be independent of sex.

At later life stages, however, sex dependency cannot be excluded. Sexual dimorphism of eye sclera surface exposure has been recently discovered (Danel et al. 2018; Danel et al., 2020). Danel et al. (2020) also found that women have rounder eye fissures and brighter irises compared to men. Maekawa et al. (2010) observed eye abnormalities such as microphthalmia and cataract in female mice but not in male mice when the fatty acid composition of the diet was changed during gestation. The authors hypothesized that this was due to differences in lipid metabolism. This suggests that effects of other factors on eye structure could also be sex- dependent in vertebrates.

Evidence for perturbation by stressor: Multiple studies demonstrate that eye development and its resulting structure can be disrupted by different stressors (reviewed for example by Chen 2020).



List of the literature that was cited for this KE description. More help

Allison, W. T., Dann, S. G., Veldhoen, K. M., & Hawryshyn, C. W. (2006). Degeneration and regeneration of ultraviolet cone photoreceptors during development in rainbow trout. Journal of Comparative Neurology499(5), 702–715.

Ali S, Champagne DL, Richardson MK. Behavioral profiling of zebrafish embryos exposed to a panel of 60 water-soluble compounds. Behav Brain Res. 2012;228(2):272-283. doi:10.1016/j.bbr.2011.11.020

Baumann, L., Ros, A., Rehberger, K., Neuhauss, S. C. F., & Segner, H. (2016). Thyroid disruption in zebrafish (Danio rerio) larvae: Different molecular response patterns lead to impaired eye development and visual functions.Aquatic Toxicology172, 44–55.

Baumann, L., Segner, H., Ros, A., Knapen, D., & Vergauwen, L. (2019). Thyroid Hormone Disruptors Interfere with Molecular Pathways of Eye Development and Function in Zebrafish. International Journal of Molecular Sciences20(7), 1543.

Bibliowicz J, Tittle RK, Gross JM. Toward a Better Understanding of Human Eye Disease: Insights from the Zebrafish, Danio Rerio. Vol 100.; 2011. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-384878-9.00007-8

Cameron, D.A., Carney, L.H., 2000. Cell mosaic patterns in the native and regenerated inner retina of zebrafish: implications for retinal assembly. J. Comp. Neurol. 416, 356–367.

Danel DP, Wacewicz S, Kleisner K, Lewandowski Z, Kret ME, Zywiczynski P, Perea-Garcia JO. 2020. Sex differences in ocular morphology in Caucasian people: a dubious role of sexual selection in the evolution of sexual dimorphism of the human eye. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 74(10).

Danel DP, Wacewicz S, Lewandowski Z, Zywiczynski P, Perea-Garcia JO. 2018. Humans do not perceive conspecifics with a greater exposed sclera as more trustworthy: a preliminary cross-ethnic study of the function of the overexposed human sclera. Acta Ethologica 21(3):203-208.

Dong, W., Macaulay, L. J., Kwok, K. W., Hinton, D. E., Ferguson, P. L., & Stapleton, H. M. (2014). The PBDE metabolite 6-OH-BDE 47 affects melanin pigmentation and THRβMRNA expression in the eye of zebrafish embryos. Endocrine Disruptors2(1), e969072.

Duval, M. G., & Allison, W. T. (2018). Photoreceptor progenitors depend upon coordination of gdf6a, thrβ, and tbx2b to generate precise populations of cone photoreceptor subtypes. Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science59(15), 6089–6101.

Fadool, J.M., 2003. Development of a rod photoreceptor mosaic revealed in transgenic zebrafish. Dev. Biol. 258, 277–290.

Gamborino, M. J., Sevilla-Romero, E., Muñoz, A., Hernández-Yago, J., Renau-Piqueras, J., & Pinazo-Durán, M. D. (2001). Role of thyroid hormone in craniofacial and eye development using a rat model. Ophthalmic Research,33(5), 283–291.

Gan, K. J., & Flamarique, I. N. (2010). Thyroid hormone accelerates opsin expression during early photoreceptor differentiation and induces opsin switching in differentiated TRα-expressing cones of the salmonid retina. Developmental Dynamics239(10), 2700–2713.

Gestri, G., Link, B. A., & Neuhauss, S. C. (2012). The visual system of zebrafish and its use to model 

Houbrechts, A. M., Vergauwen, L., Bagci, E., Van houcke, J., Heijlen, M., Kulemeka, B., Hyde, D. R., Knapen, D., & Darras, V. M. (2016). Deiodinase knockdown affects zebrafish eye development at the level of gene expression, morphology and function. Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology424, 81–93.

Komoike, Y., Matsuoka, M., & Kosaki, K. (2013). Potential teratogenicity of methimazole: Exposure of zebrafish embryos to methimazole causes similar developmental anomalies to human methimazole embryopathy. Birth Defects Research Part B - Developmental and Reproductive Toxicology98(3), 222–229.

Li, Z., Ptak, D., Zhang, L., Walls, E. K., Zhong, W., & Leung, Y. F. (2012). Phenylthiourea specifically reduces zebrafish eye size. PLoS ONE,7(6), 1–14.

Lister JA. Development of pigment cells in the zebrafish embryo. Microsc Res Tech. 2002;58(6):435-441. doi:10.1002/jemt.10161

Moreno-Marmol T, Cavodeassi F, Bovolenta P. 2018. Setting Eyes on the Retinal Pigment Epithelium. Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology 6.

Morris AC, Fadool JM. 2005. Studying rod photoreceptor development in zebrafish. Physiology & Behavior 86(3):306-313.

Plafker SM, O'Mealey GB, Szweda LI. Mechanisms for countering oxidative stress and damage in retinal pigment epithelium. Int Rev Cell Mol Biol. 2012;298:135-77. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-394309-5.00004-3. PMID: 22878106; PMCID: PMC3564215.

Raine, J. C., & Hawryshyn, C. W. (2009). Changes in thyroid hormone reception precede SWS1 opsin downregulation in trout retina. Journal of Experimental Biology212(17), 2781–2786.

Raymond PA, Barthel LK, Curran GA. 1995. DEVELOPMENTAL PATTERNING OF ROD AND CONE PHOTORECEPTORS IN EMBRYONIC ZEBRAFISH. Journal of Comparative Neurology 359(4):537-550.

Reider, M., & Connaughton, V. P. (2014). Effects of low-dose embryonic thyroid disruption and rearing temperature on the development of the eye and retina in zebrafish. Birth Defects Research. Part B, Developmental and Reproductive Toxicology101(5), 347–354.

Rockhill, R.L., Euler, T., Masland, R.H., 2000. Spatial order within but not between types of retinal neurons. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 97, 2303–2307.

Schmitt EA, Dowling JE. 1999. Early retinal development in the zebrafish, Danio rerio: Light and electron microscopic analyses. Journal of Comparative Neurology 404(4):515-536.

Suzuki, S. C., Bleckert, A., Williams, P. R., Takechi, M., Kawamura, S., & Wong, R. O. L. (2013). Cone photoreceptor types in zebrafish are generated by symmetric terminal divisions of dedicated precursors. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences110(37), 15109 LP – 15114.

Strauss O. The retinal pigment epithelium in visual function. Physiol Rev. 2005 Jul;85(3):845-81. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00021.2004. PMID: 15987797.

Vancamp, P., Bourgeois, N. M. A., Houbrechts, A. M., & Darras, V. M. (2019). Knockdown of the thyroid hormone transporter MCT8 in chicken retinal precursor cells hampers early retinal development and results in a shift towards more UV/blue cones at the expense of green/red cones. Experimental Eye Research178(September 2018), 135–147.

Viets, K., Eldred, K. C., & Johnston, R. J. (2016). Mechanisms of Photoreceptor Patterning in Vertebrates and Invertebrates. Trends in Genetics32(10), 638–659.

Wässle, H., Riemann, H.J., 1978. The mosaic of nerve cells in the mammalian retina. Proc. R. Soc. London B Biol. Sci. 200, 441–461.