The Unique Paired Retinal Vessels of the Gray Short-Tailed Opossum (Monodelphis domestica) and Their Relationship to Astrocytes and Microglial Cells

Paul G. McMenamin, Cecilia Naranjo Golborne, Xiangting Chen, Ben Wheaton, Samantha Dando

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


In marsupials that possess a retinal vasculature, the arterial and venous segments, down to the smallest calibre capillaries, have been shown to occur in pairs. This pattern is seen in the marsupial central nervous system (CNS) but not in other tissues in this group or in any tissues in eutherian mammals. The present study aimed to determine if the gray short-tailed opossum (Monodelphis domestica), a south American marsupial, possesses double retinal vessels. Secondly, we investigated the relationship between vessels and astrocytes and microglia, which are known to play pivotal roles in the blood retinal barrier and immune surveillance respectively. Eyes from M. domestica between 2 months and 33 months of age were examined by bright field and fluorescein angiography, resin histology, and wholemount immunostaining. Retinal vessels in this marsupial always occur in closely related pairs with the arteriolar limb usually on the vitread aspect. Branches penetrate the retina to form layers of paired capillaries as far as the outer nuclear layer. Dense networks of GFAP+ astrocytes enveloped the vitread aspect of vessels. No particularly strong association with blood vessels and ramified Iba1+ and Ib4+ microglia was noted. M. domestica possessed the unusual paired vasculature and capillary loops arrangement previously described in the marsupial CNS. These observations in a small laboratory-friendly marsupial open up new frontiers to investigate the factors that regulate paired blood vessel development and the functional significance of this arrangement when compared to the anastomotic pattern observed in the retina of eutherian mammals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1391-1400
Number of pages10
JournalAnatomical Record
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017


  • Astrocytes
  • Blood vessels
  • Microglia
  • Paired capillaries
  • Retina

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