The pineal body and the retina of the neonatal Sprague-Dawley rat were studied by light and electron microscopy, and the morphologic differentiation of the parenchymal cells of the pineal body was compared with that of the developing photoreceptor cells of the retina. Between the ages of 4 and 12 days after birth, some of the developing pinealocytes were observed to become elongated and polarized, with their nuclei located at one pole. "Synaptic" ribbons were observed within the cell body. At the opposite pole the cells developed elongated cell processes that initially contained microtubules and ribosomes. These cell processes projected into luminal spaces and were attached by structures resembling zonulae adherentes to the adjacent cells. Extending from the tips of the cell processes, cilia with a 9 + 0 arrangement were observed. Lamellated and vesicular membranes were noted at the tips of the cilia. Such morphologic differentiation, however, could be observed only in rats younger than 17 days. Comparison of the morphologic features of the neonatal pinealocytes with those of the developing retinal photoreceptor cells showed much similarity. It is suggested that the pinealocytes of the neonatal rat undergo "photoreceptor-like" differentiation during a transient neonatal period. Such morphologic differentiation may provide an explanation for light-induced biochemical changes described in neonatal rats whose eyes had been enucleated.

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