Acute (1-hr, 6-hr) and longer term (24-hr) effects of laser injury on retinal function and cellular responses have been studied in the Great Plains rat snake, Elaphe guttata emoryi. This animal is of interest for vision research because its eye has an all-cone retina. A linear array of 5 thermal lesions was placed in the retina of anesthetized animals, near the area centralis, using a Nd:VO4 laser (532 nm), that delivered 50 mW per 10-msec pulse. Retinal function was assessed with the pattern electroretinogram (PERG), recorded before and after the placement of the lesions. PERGs were elicited with counterphased square-wave gratings, and were analyzed by Fourier analysis. The fate of lesioned cells was assessed by immunohistological staining for the transcription factor, NF-&kgr;B (which is activated by ionizing and nonionizing radiation), as well as for the apoptosis marker, caspase-9. The normal snake PERG had the maximum, real amplitude frequency component, determined by Fourier analysis, at the reversal frequency of the grating (i.e. shifts/sec). In the hour following the lesion-producing laser exposures, the PERG response exhibited frequency doubling, i.e. a new response waveform appeared at twice the reversal frequency. By 24-hr post exposure, many lesioned photoreceptors
stained positively for both NF-&kgr;B and caspase 9. Because the PERG largely reflects retinal ganglion cell activity, the appearance of frequency doubling in the PERG suggests that complementary (push-pull) inputs to ganglion cells are disrupted by the laser lesions. The immunohistological results indicate that activation of NF- B is not necessarily associated with photoreceptor survival after a laser injury.