Using an antibody against tyrosine hydroxylase on newborn to 30-day kitten retinas, we have been able to follow the development of the dopaminergic amacrine cells of the cat retina by light-microscopical investigations of retinal wholemounts. The Type 1 or large Toh+ amacrine cells described by others (Oyster et al., 1985; Törk & Stone, 1979) and named A18 from a Golgi study (Kolb et al., 1981), is at birth (P1) an immature neuron with a small cell body and two or three simple thick radiating dendrites stratifying in stratum 1 with many of the dendrites ending in enlarged growth cones. With increasing postnatal age, the cell body size increases from 12.5 μm diameter to reach 15.5 μm diameter at P30. The dendritic fields also increase in size and complexity. At P1, cells of the central area exhibit dendritic appendages which then develop progressively until at P13 (after eye opening) they are part of rudimentary rings and by P30 the dendritic plexus of Toh+ dendrites and rings in stratum 1, typical of the adult cells, are complete. Toh+ stained processes with growth cones that run deep in stratum 5 of the inner plexiform layer and processes passing to the outer plexiform layer first become apparent at P1 in cells of central inferior retina but not till after P13 are these processes clearly expressed. At P1, the total number of Toh+ Type 1 cells is approximately 4000 and this number remains unchanged to the adult retina. However, the retina increases in size over the Pl–P30 stage and thus the mean density of Type 1 Toh+ cells decreases from 30/mm2 at P1 to 18/mm2 at P30. The maximum density of Type 1 Toh+ cells occurs in central retina 2–4 mm superior temporal to the area centralis, corresponding to the maximum rod photoreceptor concentration.
A second type of small Toh+ amacrine cell can be visualized at P1. This Type 2 cell is characterized by a much smaller cell body than Type 1 cells (9 μm diameter), and with faintly stained dendrites located in stratum 3 of the inner plexiform layer. During later postnatal days, Type 2 cells gradually become unstainable and only few are still seen in far peripheral retina by P23. Type 2 Toh+ cells form a total population of 40,000 cells at P1 with their highest density occurring in peripheral retina. By P13, they cannot be seen in central retina and are reduced to a total population of cells staining for the antibody of 7400 cells in far peripheral retina. Their density decreases from 233/mm2 at P1 to 0/mm2 at P30. The transiently staining population of Type 2 Toh+ immunoreactive cells probably correspond to the small THI-CA-cell seen in rat retina (Nguyen–Legros et al., 1983), and the second type of dopaminergic amacrine cell seen in macaque retina (Mariani & Hokoc, 1988).