Differential expression of ionotropic glutamate receptor subunits in the outer retina

J Comp Neurol. 1999 Mar 8;405(2):173-84. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1096-9861(19990308)405:2<173::aid-cne3>3.0.co;2-l.


Ionotropic glutamate receptors (iGluRs) are extremely diverse in their subunit compositions. To understand the functional consequences of this diversity, it is necessary to know the subunits that are expressed by known cell types. By using immunocytochemistry with light and electron microscopy, we localized several subunits (GluR2/3, GluR4, and GluR6/7) in cat retinal neurons, postsynaptic to photoreceptors. Type A horizontal cells express all three subunits strongly, whereas type B horizontal cells express GluR2/3 strongly, GluR6/7 weakly, and do not express GluR4. When they are present, the subunits are expressed strongly throughout the cytoplasm of the somata and primary dendrites; however, in the terminals, they are concentrated at the postsynaptic region, just opposite the presumed site of photoreceptor glutamate release. Surprisingly, all bipolar cell classes (OFF cone bipolar cells, ON cone bipolar cells, and rod bipolar cells) express at least one iGluR subunit at their dendritic tips. Cone bipolar cells forming basal contacts with the cones (presumably OFF cells) express all three subunits in association with the electron-dense postsynaptic membrane. Invaginating dendrites of cone bipolar cells (presumably ON cells) express GluR2/3 and GluR4. Rod bipolar cells (ON cells) express GluR2/3 in their invaginating dendrites. The function of iGluRs in horizontal cells and OFF bipolar cells clearly is to mediate their light responses. GluR6/7 subunit in the receptor of these cells may be responsible for the dopamine-mediated enhancement of glutamate responses that have been observed previously in these cells. The function of iGluRs in ON bipolar cells remains an enigma.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen-Antibody Reactions
  • Cats / metabolism*
  • Dendrites / chemistry
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Microscopy, Immunoelectron
  • Neurons / chemistry*
  • Peptide Fragments / analysis*
  • Receptors, AMPA / analysis
  • Receptors, Glutamate / chemistry*
  • Receptors, Kainic Acid / analysis
  • Retina / chemistry*
  • Retina / cytology
  • Retinal Rod Photoreceptor Cells / chemistry
  • Synapses / chemistry


  • Peptide Fragments
  • Receptors, AMPA
  • Receptors, Glutamate
  • Receptors, Kainic Acid